Brickell curates each show from his art collection, which has A gallery has grown in the heart of Coromandel Town. In a purpose-built space designed by Ron Sang, Barry Brickell's Driving Creek Art Gallery is hosting its sixth exhibition Using Paint and Clay Expressively.been accumulated over 60 years.
The current show reflects Brickell's passion for paint and clay, as well as providing mediums for self-expression and provoking a questioning mind. Brickell prompts visitors to consider the pieces while bearing in mind that art "is not the thing but how", which he says is "an art-political statement by which I live".
As the show is an embodiment of Brickell's taste, he has provided the ultimate catalogue, explaining how each piece came about, and giving details of the artist from a personal perspective.
The catalogue is a valuable key to New Zealand's artistic history. The works sway between the striking (John Madden's oil on canvas Pararaha) and the ethereal (Ralph Hotere's cloudy ink on paper Aramoana Series).
Nigel Brown's It is Not the Thing but How is a work the artist created at Brickell's request. It is an apt summation of Brickell's mantra, the words boldened with earthy tones and textures uniting the ceramic forms on the canvas, a nod in paint to the clay worked in the Driving Creek pottery.
Brickell's Locomotive is a consuming piece with sharp yet dense lines contributing to an industrial vibrance of greys and oranges. Brickell created the piece as he took part in painting sessions with Colin McCahon in 1959 and worked closely with Keith Patterson. Locomotive is a treasure from the inspired mind of a young artist. Jesus Went by Rail is a later resonant piece.
Robert Ellis' Cityscape is hectic in its display of overlapping street grids, almost dizzying in its energy. Katherine Braugh's West Coast Landscape's delicate brushwork and palette of yellows and greens is awe-inspiring.
Alternatively, Ken Adams' Fomison's Studio photograph presents the hypnotic zen of an inspired artist at work, regardless of real-world turmoil.
Fomison is directly represented with his terracotta Portrait, an interesting excerpt from the period he spent at Driving Creek in 1986 painting and working with clay.
Brickell's own Spanner Talk almost prompts the viewer to converse with the painting. Spanners, as a symbol of trade and ingenuity, have a human aspect, he explains, because they have a mouth. Perhaps, in this sense, the cluster of spanners off centre on the board seem like an organ; the heart of the work giving life and energy for a bigger purpose - the vibrancy generated by the colourful piece.
The current exhibition will continue to the end of April. The gallery aims to display two shows each year, using the incredible Brickell collection.
Outside, you can enjoy the beauty of the native forest surrounding Brickell's gallery by going on a ride along the Driving Creek Railway, which has carried more than one million passengers since fare-charging started in 1990, replacing a donation system.