Art has always responded to changing technology. In the Renaissance, the change from tempera to oil paint led to a greater subtlety of effect. Two strikingly different exhibitions this week use computer technology to intensify their form and colour while keeping traditional formats for their work.
At the Gow Langsford Gallery in Lorne St, the show by Sara Hughes is appropriately titled Sing a Rainbow, since the work is lyrical in manner and vividly coloured.
The contribution of the computer is to produce masking in geometrical patterns of lines. The computer can mould these patterns in an infinite number of ways. Mostly, the lines are straight but, in some works, they swell into curves.
The masking produces sharp-edged forms with a jazzy edginess, but since the colours are applied by spraying there are soft-edged luminous forms, which are sometimes pushed into prominence.
The soft forms are an essential part of the structure. Yet the discussion of the techniques by which these paintings are achieved is really secondary to the impact of the carnival of colour presented by the dozens of works on canvas and paper. The works truly sing and are filled with lively rhythms and a sense of spontaneity and joy that takes them far beyond exercises in design.
The painting called Listen With Your Eyes sets the tone and Red and Yellow and Pink and Green melds these basic colours into a composition of sheer delight. These are moderately sized works but the large, splendid All Your Favourite Colours shows the artist's control over taut rhythms across a wide area.
The longest wall of the gallery has two rows of 14 works on paper with a variety of effect, from the gold and red of Tiger Footprints to the almost invisible circle in the background of Afterglow, which also has subtle curves in the foreground, and the hectic rhythms of Reflection.
In the notes that accompany the exhibition, the artist mentions the influence that has come from watching the developmental responses of her infant sons. This may account for the immediacy and personal involvement in the paintings but there is nothing childish about the nature of the work; it is sophisticated art of the highest order and another fresh, polished achievement by one of our most inventive artists.
Hye Rim Lee, whose show Lucid Dream is at Gow Langsford's Kitchener St gallery, also expresses her imagination by using a computer. Her complex and strange images are designed on a computer, printed by ink-jet printer and mounted on perspex. They are issued in editions of five.
Black Rose Queen, by Hye Rim Lee
The shiny surface of the photographic print medium exactly suits the sharp, shining brightness integral to the images that grow out of her animated films.
Always her work centres on her original creation of Toki, a female figure, doll-like, almond-eyed, long-legged, slim, with an impossibly prominent bust, dressed in shiny black vinyl and high heels. This character, intriguing, artificial, attractive but with more than a little menace, is seen everywhere in the show, even in a forest of purple mushrooms. Glass Box, Chasing Rabbit, yellow has the figure dominating a large, yellow rabbit in a pink box with a stopper on top like a perfume bottle.
The figure also occupies a huge work on the gallery's back wall called Black Rose Queen. The figure, this time clad in a black panelled dress, occupies the centre of a rose, made up of shiny facets like a diamond. She wears a crown and her arms are covered in spikes.
An element of magic is present in a dragon that features in three works identical in composition but with different moods of colour. It is all teeth, whiskers and a long tail adorned with a row of curiously curved shapes. It is a captive dragon of dreams.
The quality of this exhibition lies in its creation of a special world: intense, brittle, stylish, and utterly modern.
Quite different from these two shows is the installation by Fiona Connor, Can Do Academy, at Hopkinson Mossman.
The artist presents not so much works of art but a place where works of art have been made.
Can Do Academy #3, 2014, Fiona Connor
The gallery is empty and the walls are almost bare. On these are blank rectangles defined by smudges around the edge where the painter worked. The ghosts of drawings are apparent too. You can see where they were fastened to the wall with sticky tape. Equally grubby is a handbasin mounted on the wall. An area of red has been rubbed in an unsuccessful attempt to clean it. This is surrounded by a system of splashes where people have washed. The immaculate doors of the gallery and the light fittings have been dirtied to suggest constant use.
It is a clever and amusing presentation of process over product.
At the galleries
Sing a Rainbow by Sara Hughes
Where and when:
Gow Langsford Gallery, 26 Lorne St, to October 11
Sara Hughes extends the range of her painting with a computer-driven exuberant display of colour and pattern of striking immediacy and great invention.
What: Lucid Dream, Black Rose, Glass Box by Hye Rim Lee
Where and when: Gow Langsford Gallery, cnr Kitchener-Wellesley Sts, to October 11
TJ says: New Zealand-Korean artist resident in New York shows her invented character of Toki as a spiky queen along with her captive mystical dragon.
What: Can Do Academy by Fiona Connor
Where and when: Hopkinson Mossman Gallery, 19 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to October 11
TJ says: Finalist in the 2010 Walters Prize shows a new work that is the model of a modern installation - a grubby, empty studio sans paintings and an absent artist.