Artist takes inspiration from McCahon, but his works are more controlled

The paintings of Elliot Collins at Tim Melville Gallery are attractive accumulations of richly coloured squares but they go beyond simple abstractions. The characteristic feature of Collins' work has been his use of lettering across the painted background. In this collection, delicately muted squares of colour progress across the canvas in keeping with the show's title, A Certain Kind of Light.

The lettering is in precise capitals in a manner completely opposite to the emotive handwriting of Colin McCahon. He is present all the same. One work takes the words from his late painting, The Lark's Song. These are lettered formally against a dark background of colours that journey across and upward toward a bright light. In a similar way, but with more complexity, the lights and darks of McCahon's wonderful Northland Panels are marshalled shade by shade across a long rectangular painting.

Other works reference a variety of artists in their composition and lettering.

Two small, neat abstractions without lettering and one departure from an abstraction, a vivid painting of a cloudy sky with only STILL SMALL VOICE across it, show the basic style can be effective without wider connotations.

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Collins' big paintings are shown alongside small, subtle abstractions by Simon McIntyre. His deft little paintings, notably Pale Split and Silo with their fragments of form and colour, have appealing upward rhythms and complex interactions quite independent of their starting point in buildings and their lighting.

Proun IV by Jessica Pearless.
Proun IV by Jessica Pearless.

Squares of colour also make up the abstract, non-objective paintings of Jessica Pearless in her exhibition at the Bath Street Gallery. The series is called After Paintings as the debt is acknowledged to Josef Albers with his Homage to the Square and reductionist painters like Elsworth Kelly and Kasimir Malevich.

The work is academic abstraction, with forms precisely defined in the exact edges of the squares. Their restrained colours are sometimes collaged on to the background or cut through the surface to reveal earlier underpainting. Good use is made of matte and metallic surfaces to enhance the effect of the pure colours and rhythm of the composition.

The complexity of the work lies in the way the squares move. They tumble elegantly down the painting and the colours also move in space quietly and effectively.

In the smaller area of the gallery some darker paintings with more variety of forms are carefully constructed to interact and support each other.

These works suggest this architecture could be a fertile field for further development.

ArtWeek also provides work at the opposite end of abstraction, notably the painting of flowers. Most potent in terms of paint and colour is the exhibition The Honeymooners' Bed by Peter Hackett at Parnell Gallery.

The Honeymooners' Bed by Peter Hackett.
The Honeymooners' Bed by Peter Hackett.

The richness of these works lies in the heavy impasto of the paint. This conveys the form of the multiplicity of flowers that make up the fields of his paintings and a sense of excitement about the way oil paint can powerfully model their presence and involve the viewer in the making of the work.

The artist is quoted as saying, "I am not just using oil paint to describe a meadow; I am using a meadow to describe the potential of oil paint."

The composition moves in a level perspective across fields of flowers and shrubs in vivid colour. They do not rise to a skyline but generally toward trees that make a satisfying boundary to the riot of different hues. The modelling of flowers often gives way to dark touches of trunks in avenues of trees.

The thick nature of the paint confers qualities on these paintings that can only be felt in front of them. They give great emphasis to the movement of the hand as it creates the image and the unifying overall texture of the painting.

The paintings are uniform in style but individual in their composition of colour.

Whether it be the potent red of a field of poppies or the delightful contrast of green and white blooms, every painting, though related to the rest, has a different, complex colour scheme.

It works because of the special nature of the viewers' response to a vision of natural beauty, especially the flowers of spring and summer. The one abstract painting in the show, Two Years in the Honeymooners' Bed, shares the same painterly attack but does not evoke the same response. It is simply confused.

The perpetual appeal of flowers is also part of the work of Pamela Wolfe who emphasises effect by making her cut flowers much larger than life so they burst across the canvas with colour and thrusting life. The show is called Savage Beauty.

Their transitory beauty is fixed in rippling paint in the large works. The smaller works on paper with opaque watercolour are charming but the thinner paint and smaller scale defuses the force of the subject while giving exact illustration of the nature of the variety of blooms.

At the galleries

What:

A Certain Kind of Light: Elliot Collins, Simon McIntyre

Where and when:

Tim Melville Gallery, 4 Winchester St, Newton, to November 14

TJ says:

Both artists are concerned with light. Collins takes the light effects in paintings and makes abstractions of it with lettering to give it a context and McIntyre utilises light and shade from buildings for his quieter work.

What: Until Now by Jessica Pearless
Where and when: Bath Street Gallery, 43 Bath St, Parnell, to October 31
TJ says: In her first solo exhibition, Pearless makes varied compositions of squares and structured abstractions with precision and finesse.

What: The Honeymooners' Bed by Peter Hackett
Where and when: Parnell Gallery, 263 Parnell Rd, to October 27
TJ says: Large paintings of vivid fields of bright flowers in virtuoso masses of thick, eloquent, clotted paint.

What: Savage Beauty by Pamela Wolfe
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 280 Parnell Rd, to November 1
TJ says: Fine accurate paintings of flowers given energy with their over-life-size and rich colour and arrangement.