Modern sculptors use many different materials but fascination with the enduring nature of stone persists. The work of Chris Charteris at FHE Galleries is based on the natural shape of water-worn stones and the revelation of their interior beauty.
His familiar manner of assembling graded collections of fist-sized river and coastal stones into vast hanging loops like giant necklaces has produced striking public works.
Two examples adorn his new show but the bulk of the work features granite river stones about the size of a head or a little larger. The stones have been quartered decisively, in such a way as to leave a dark, cross-shaped core.
The size of the core is carefully judged so the weight and solidity of the stone are not compromised nor its overall shape altered. The roundness of the stone, the result of centuries of the tumbling action of the river, is retained.
The artist's contribution is to polish or carve the quarters in a way that reveals the inner beauty of the stone. Some, like Ora, have parts with high polish, while others, equally rich, are left unpolished to absorb light. When carving is done in relation to the polish, as in the two works titled Pacific Cross, it is in parallel lines, making chevron patterns. They reinforce the divisions, giving a strong traditional Pasifika aspect to the work.
Two of the finest carvings break the pattern somewhat. HoHou Rongo has wider divisions and an effective combination of polish and carving that transfigures the basic stone more. This is carried further in Onaianei, which gives the title to the show. Here the cross shape is in high relief and enfolds the round granite shape rather than being cut into it. It makes a highly effective work but one that owes more to the sculptor than the forces of nature.
This is also true of the two works in andesite rather than granite, where the found stone is a slab. Hononga offers a linear variety of colours, all revealed in the stone when carved and polished. Mauri Ora, more spectacularly, has the appearance of an altar stone and the overall carving of the front face of the work gives an unusual radiance to a central cross motif.
All these interventions retain the essential nature of the stone while remaining true to the natural strength and hardness of the medium. They might be said to seek the soul of the stone, the river and the shore and delve deeply into the long history of stones as centres of worship.
Great Expectations by Brendan McGorry at Sanderson Contemporary Art takes its title from Dickens' famous novel. Like the book, the paintings are about growing up and the passage of time. These are paintings of a family but the implications are universal.
The most touching is How Soon is Now with a grandson and grandfather on either side of an old iron fireplace with a glowing fire. The fireplace refers to continuing tradition and the fire to warm homeliness. A further reference to tradition comes in the reproduction of a familiar painting by Constable over the mantelpiece. The little boy is standing on a chair to sing, while the grandfather plays the guitar.
The manner of the work is lively, a patchwork of colour with each form surrounded by a wiry line. The warm colours are mostly unmixed red, yellow and blue.
The whole ensemble is not entirely portrait painting. The situation makes a statement about families, tradition and the passing of time. This feeling is continued in Great Expectations I and II in which background waves of rhythmic colour suggest growth and movement. In other works celtic symbolic patterns are set in the sky against the moon. A stone wall in Cornwall Park stands for place and permanence.
One predominantly blue painting has a couple against the background of a ghostly version of Symonds St Cemetery. This work is characterised by the lively treatment of pattern in the couple's clothing as well as their youthful dignity and apparent innocence. Another kind of innocence is emphasised in the pale bare feet of a brother and sister unified by the way they sit and pose. The work combines an effective and individual style with a touchingly humanistic approach.
A big contrast with the solid stone and emblematic forms of these shows is the sheer dash and skill in the paintings by John Horner at the Railway St Studios. The scenic subjects are divided between Vietnam, Cambodia and Auckland.
All are given life by the intensity of colour and the way we can enjoy the immediacy of the fresh strokes of paint that characterise colourful floating markets in Vietnam, tall pole houses in Cambodia or the bustle of an intersection in Queen St.
Control over other moods is shown by a weighty image of a stone Buddha and three atmospheric pastels of the countryside.
At the galleries
Onaianei by Chris Charteris
Where and when:
FHE Galleries, 2 Kitchener St, to October 30
An exhibition devoted to granite where rich surfaces are found, carved and polished in round river stones and slabs of incised stone are given icon-like qualities.
What: Great Expectations: paintings by Brendan McGorry
Where and when: Sanderson Contemporary Art, Osborne Lane, 2 Kent St, Newmarket, to October 11
TJ says: Colourful images of family relationships conveyed mostly by thoughtful young figures against waves of colour that suggest the passing of time.
What: Triadic Harmony: paintings by John Horner
Where and when: Railway Street Studios, 8 Railway St, Newmarket, to October 13
TJ says: Deftly painted, colourful and atmospheric images of scenes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Auckland.Chris Charteris enhances the enduring nature of stone, while Brendan McGorry's work offers a nod to Dickens