Paint is extraordinary, especially when used by Rohan Wealleans in his show Skyclad 6000 at Ivan Anthony. He works in his accustomed manner, where it is spread in thick layers and allowed to dry. The layers are cut into small pieces, reassembled to make separate works, and mined to expose strata of colour so the image has a special sort of three dimensions.
This show is smaller and more lyrical than his previous work which is often large and sensationally macabre. This time, the exhibition contains both sculpture and wall works that can, perhaps, be called paintings though their technique makes them exceptional.
The sculptures hang from the ceiling by fine wire and mostly consist of circles with forms within them like a web. They have a clay base and are decorated with an extraordinary variety of solid, carved paint pieces, mostly with layered colour. The lumps are transformed into jewel-like objects. Individual pieces such as Catcher 2 (snow flake) are particularly attractive; they make a special impact when they are hung in groups.
The wall reliefs are colourful and the outstanding works, such as Skyclad 2, have female forms dancing in circles, a rhythmic flow linking them. Within the outline each shape has a separate colour scheme of tiny excavations in the layered paint. Outside the dancers is a landscape of deep hollows of coloured strata and sometimes stripes of solid paint. Often the images have a little stack of layers of paint that act like batteries to charge the colour.
Throughout the show the shapes are feminine but less explicit than in Wealleans' work in the past. The question is whether the appeal of the work is the unique technique or the subject of the images. The two are inseparable but the balance falls mainly on the side of the technique.
At the far end of the gallery screen prints of female figures in a jungle setting are delightfully colourful and swoopingly lyrical but more conventional without the special use of the stratified paint.
All the images have a certain potency that is inescapably Wealleans but they lack something of the fine savagery that has characterised the artist's work in the past.
Sound Anatomy by Philip Dadson at the Trish Clark Gallery has something extra - another unusual use of paint as sculpture by Helen Calder. It is made up of pliant skins of paint hung from hooks. Each is a shade of yellow and one is black. They resemble the hides of some mythical animals and hang from thick black rubber ropes that add to the strange effect.
Dadson's show is both recent drawings and video/audio work. The drawings are done in graphite on black painted paper and, as with series in the past, they are done each day in February. They are mounted as a frieze that extends right around the wall of the large gallery. They impress much more as a series rather than as single works. Although the forms are simple circles and stars, they are all drawn vigorously and flow with energy but cannot escape a hint of a design exercise. The culmination is a separate drawing called Leap, for February 29, that is more complex and has a strange glow.
Three videos are more in the mainstream of Dadson's work. One was made in Germany and has some of the qualities of his famous From Scratch band. With memories of the industrial noises heard when he worked in the Hastings Watties' cannery in his youth, he persuaded the workers in a steel factory to be filmed getting rhythmic sounds from sheet steel and the machinery. There is some precedent for this. Both Verdi and Wagner featured anvils in their operas. The result of the steelworkers' efforts is less musical but still entertaining.
Less of an assault but charming and delightful like the verses of a song is a work filmed from a kayak that manages to say something novel about the most photographed city in the world. On a split screen you see 21 bridges in Venice. The bridges are shown simultaneously as a double arch. As you pass what you see beside you is also present in the distance on the other side. Sunlight and shade play their part in the poetry. It makes a compelling 18 minutes of a completely original tour.
The exhibition Metamanagement by John Pusateri at Seed Gallery features a self-portrait called Bird Brain with a large owl perched on the artist's head.
The show includes a series of owls with slightly unnaturally coloured feathers, while the pose of the birds creates human characters. It is done very subtly, the feathers are painted with meticulous care. The C.E.O looks very knowing, The Provost looks stern and brown, The Registrar interrogatory and The Adjunct sweet. It could be coy but the artist's skill in draughtsmanship makes these characters genuinely humorous.
At the galleries
What: Skyclad 6000 by Rohan Wealleans
Where and when: Ivan Anthony, 312 Karangahape Rd, to September 12
TJ says: Wealleans continues to mine strata of thick paint and often finds gold in the shape of hanging sculpture and wall works.
What: Sound Anatomy by Phil Dadson
Where and when: Trish Clark Gallery, 1 Bowen Ave, to October 2
TJ says: The gallery walls are filled with a frieze of drawings but the high point is a video that has an original view of Venice and its bridges.
What: Metamanagement by John Pusateri
Where and when: Seed Gallery, 23a Crowhurst St, Newmarket, to September 12
TJ says: Excellent draughtsmanship gives strength to specimens of birds and butterflies but graphic wit and convincing feathers confer special character on a group of owls.