Exhibitions this week are full of real movement, allied with colour. Sometimes the image itself moves. With others the movement of the viewer alters the image.
In Motion at Starkwhite showcases a remarkable installation. It is three large coloured mirrors: blue, yellow and red placed so they reflect each other. Not only is the viewer reflected in colour but the colour seen in the mirror changes according to which mirror is reflecting the others. The colours of two mirrors will mix to produce a third colour.
These changes are familiar to every artist who has mixed colour on a palette. The classic example is when the yellow mirror reflects the blue mirror the result is bright green. The yellow mirror seen in the red mirror produces a deep golden colour. Manoeuvring to get more reflections seen in reflections expands the space and the colours produce even more variables.
The piece, called Colour Restraint, is a collaborative work by Rebecca Baumann and Brendon Van Hek. They are Australian artists but Baumann is well known here for her wall colour mechanisms which make unpredictable changes in little panels of colour.
Also on view is a lively example of Len Lye painting directly on to film stock.
The result is abstract colour in stripes and dots constantly moving on a screen accompanied by jazzy music. This was put to use as an advertising poster for the GPO in 1935 and seen by millions in cinemas throughout Britain. It was a lively piece of invention in a bygone era when you could post a 50lb parcel for a shilling. It is still very fresh today.
Also on show is a film from 1927. Hungarian Laslo Moholy-Nagy, then part of the faculty at the famous Bauhaus in Germany, made an abstract film called Black White Grey. It shows light playing over an elaborate mechanism constantly in movement. It is good to see an experimental piece of such historical significance.
Right up to date is a work called Particle Wave, with six lenticular panels in intense colour by Grant Stevens from Australia. These change as the viewer walks past and they take on colour from their neighbouring panels and the light in the gallery.
The two artists at Two Rooms use movement in different ways. Downstairs is a small retrospective exhibition by Gretchen Albrecht to accompany the launch of a book on her work. The movement of her painting is apparent in the swatches of paint sponged directly on a canvas and inspired by nature, as in Cloud Over Whatipu.
A similar technique is used in her big demi-lune paintings. A rich example here is Nocturne, a painting darker than her usual brilliant palette.
The colour returns in two paintings made last year in a departure from her usual shaped canvases. They contrast loosely painted sky and sea with small geometrical bars of firm colour. One work, After Nolde, references the Expressionist North German painter of the Baltic, Emil Nolde. It is notable for a vast expanse of red sky and the movement of waves on sand.
Upstairs at Two Rooms everything is in movement. The principal work is a computer-generated HD video by Gregory Bennett called Panoptican after a scheme devised by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, whereby a single watcher is able to observe all the inmates of an institution simultaneously. This concept is represented by curved compartmentalised forms in which animated human figures act alone.
Formerly in Bennett's videos they were usually frenzied groups opening and closing like flowers or chorus lines.
The structures themselves are transformed in this work. A chaos of parts resolves itself into buildings that open and close. Machinery pumps up and down and hammers match the knocking on the sound track. There is still a sense of toil, enslavement and worship in the actions of incessant movement of the figures. They never really dance.
A second smaller video, Ectomorphia, works in circles around a tree with more aggression on the part of the figures involved. In one grim sequence they kick and punch at flayed skins of their fellows.
The imaginative force of artists in Auckland brought us into the fertile fields of Modernism in the second half of last century. Examples of the sensitivity and courage needed to lead the way in changing the conservatism of New Zealand art can be seen at Exhibitions Gallery in a small show of early work by Milan Mrkusich, one of the surviving leaders.
Emotional force is conveyed by active movement in lively brushwork and the intellectual power of clear, precise geometry characteristic of later work.
In a painting simply called 62-2, a head is defined by geometry, while the power of thought is indicated in the tumultuous movement behind it and the whole is adorned with gold. It was a startling and strong painting in 1962 and remains so today.
At the galleries
In Motion by Rebecca Baumann, Brendan van Hek, Alicia Frankovich, Laslo Moholy-Nagy, Len Lye and Grant Stevens
Where and when:
Starkwhite, 510 Karangahape Rd, Newton, to August 8
An installation of mirrors fills the ground floor while other work, recent and historical, including a jaunty abstraction in movement by Len Lye, is upstairs.
What: Colloquy by Gretchen Albrecht; Panopticon by Gregory Bennett
Where and when: Two Rooms, 16 Putiki St, Newton, to August 8
TJ says: A varied retrospective show of painting on one floor; upstairs, vigorous computer-generated images of figures, and architecture in constant motion.
What: Paintings and Collages 1960-63 by Milan Mrkusich
Where and when: Exhibitions Gallery, 19A Osborne St, Newmarket, to July 26
TJ says: A glimpse of the development of the artist who led the way for abstraction in New Zealand art by the force of his example.