Photographs can never completely convey the impact of a work of art, particularly when it is an installation. Such a work is the powerful, ritualistic installation Nga Hau e Wha: The Four Winds by Leilani Kake, which was part of the Auckland Arts Festival and continues at the Fresh Gallery in the Otara Town Centre. It is hard to photograph because the work is in a room shrouded in thick darkness and surrounds viewers on four sides so they are completely immersed.

Immersed is a suitable word because on each wall a figure of a naked woman floats in semi-darkness. The viewer is aware that although the women are vertical, the spread of their hair and the gentle movement of their bodies make it clear they are floating.

The forms that emerge from the water, notably face, breasts and belly, appear especially illuminated while the rest of the body dissolves into dark space. Behind each of the four figures there is a light, sometimes the moon and sometimes like the tunnel of light people report seeing when they have had a near-death experience.

The four subjects are of different ages: a young woman, two mature women and a heavily pregnant woman.

The darkened room is often shaken by thunder, with a sound track that is a poetic salutation to the night and the coming of light. The whole is a work of great intensity and, it should be said, of bravery, because it breaks Pacific Island and Maori cultural taboos about nudity.

The gentle movement of the women is entirely in keeping with the mystical atmosphere, with some lovely details such as when the movement of the arms of the youngest woman produces a sudden shower of golden light.

The whole wonderful piece is beautifully conceived and carried through entering into the eternal world of myth. It gives a profound sense of the power of the female spirit and it is well worth braving the dark to achieve this insight. To enter into the pitch blackness and see the forms emerge is a magical experience.

Any work with three dimensions is also difficult to photograph and Miranda Parkes, whose exhibition Smasher is at the Antoinette Godkin Gallery, has made it her trademark to push and shape her colourful striped abstractions into a crumpled mass of hills and valleys. Most of the work in her show takes on this inventive 3D form.

In Soother - the title reflects the bland harmonies of the striped colours - the effect is of a rumpled striped bedspread, albeit a delicious one. Much more dashing is Smasher with its deep declivities and rolling slopes, all given energy by inventive, unusual combinations of purple and green.

Some paintings also reveal the artist trying to break away from her established manner. Gleamer, which has no stripes, is just one deep silver depression with colour at the sides. It makes the third dimension work and indicates that plainer, stronger forms might be exploited to good effect.

Around the corner at Orexart is work by James Brown that photographs very well because it is strongly illustrative. The Empire of Idols is made up of scenes from a fantastic world, and given titles such as, I believe the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully. This painting, extremely skilfully drawn, shows a human in a space suit contemplating a maelstrom in a dramatic landscape amid Cyclopean masonry.

It is dramatic in a way derivative of adult science fiction comics. A Plot at the Theatre of Dionysus shows a group engaged in an ecstatic Bacchic dance while nearby a sinister rabbit and a fox are obviously plotting some lurid scheme.

It is abundantly clear that Brown has a huge talent for this imaginative, graphic style of imagery. His ideas pull into a cohesive vision in a work called The Birth of Tragedy, in which a figure with a head of a goat with a red and blue beard is posed in a position that recalls the dead Christ. He is surrounded by curious ritual objects, a glass of blood or wine, a candle and a hint of dissection in a quotation from Rembrandt's famous The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp.

This figure has a presence stemming from the eyes which lifts it above the more stereotyped images - werewolves, dinosaurs and red skies crackling with lightning - that fill the other works.

Brown's paintings are filled with painstaking detail. The forceful but charming paintings by Jee-young Kim at the Bath Street Gallery are broad in the handling. The viewer can participate in the sweep of each application of paint and the decisions that govern the placing of these colourful gestures.

The force of the work comes from the size and assurance of the painterly sweeps, notably in the loops of black that often hold the compositions together. The paradox is that the work is charming and gentle in mood. This comes from the delicate harmonies of colour, making the title of the exhibition, The Pink Book, entirely appropriate.

The effect of the colour is notable in a work called In Every Rainbow There is the Same Loving Promise where a patchwork of colours is dominated by an audacious slash of pink right across the painting. The titles give some key to the mood of individual works. This can be seen in Make My Heart a Place Where Angels Sing, where the right hand side of the work has a complex interacting composition of colour, then a cloudy space linked by a great loop on the left. The titles often fall into a sentimental strain but the paintings are mostly rich in their effect.

At the galleries
What: Nga Hau e Wha: The Four Winds by Leilani Kake

Where and when: Fresh Gallery, 5/46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, to April 16

TJ says: A powerful combination of moving image, poetry and sound honours the mythic force of womanhood in a Polynesian way.

What: Smasher by Miranda Parkes

Where and when: Antoinette Godkin Gallery, 28 Lorne St, to April 9

TJ says: The artist pursues her style of colourful abstract canvases crumpled into three dimensions as well as adding stylish new directions.

What: Empire of Idols by James Brown

Where and when: Orexart, Upper Khartoum Place, to April 19

TJ says: With remarkably accomplished draughtsmanship the artist creates a lurid parallel world, but peoples it with stereotyped figures except for some extraordinary goat-headed idols.

What: The Pink Book by Jee Young Kim

Where and when: Bath Street Gallery, 43 Bath St, Parnell, to April 16

TJ says: A young Korean artist attacks her canvas with assured gestures and colour that charms without sentimentality.

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