Mark-making and colour are the essentials of painting. Freed from the demand of representation, some artists boil down their work to just those elements to make abstract paintings that exist in their own right as independent objects. In abstraction it is the style not the subject that differentiates one artist from another.
Matt Arbuckle, whose exhibition Digression is at the Tim Melville Gallery, is a vigorous artist whose work is full of dash and attack. New Zealand-trained, he divides his time between here, Australia and Germany.
The immediate inspiration for his work are the photographs he takes to document his day. They are marked up in various ways and pinned to the studio wall. Alone or together some may become starting points for the act of painting.
In some cases, hints of the origin survive. One of the most successful works is the large Looking Out at Those Looking In.
Two-thirds of the image is framed in brown, which suggests a window, generically but not particularly. On the left is a black form pushing forward with something like road markings in perspective. A swish of movement separates it from the right where there are formless shapes with dashes of various colours that suggest transience. They come from the distance to enter past the frame.
The overall feeling is of great spontaneity. The forms, the dark and the light and the framing brown combine to produce this inside-outside effect as well as allowing the viewer to participate in the making.
One of the qualities of the exhibition is the variety of sensation. Barramundi Scales has a feel of similar objects isolated in space. The touches of paint are all slightly different and incorporate traces of a variety of colours but fall into a pattern that emphasises their separateness. Minimum Chips has dark shadows emerging from gloom.
The attractive Identity Parade has lines of force falling on to solid ground, contrasting movement with weight. The variety of effect and energy by a young painter is evidence of present success and considerable future potential.
Georgie Hill, at Ivan Anthony, is an established artist and an extraordinary mark-maker. Her small works are done in watercolour and ink in a largely abstract way but with elements of fine exactness and care.
The title of her show, Semi-Supine View, would seem to indicate something placid but often the work is agitated in a special way. Intricate patterns of diffusion of grey are formed. The softness of these patterns is often interrupted by precise blank circles. In Eileen Gray adjustable lounger, the form of a seat is intriguingly almost lost in the patterns.
In addition, some precise rectangles of colour at the top are contrasted with a show of spreading colour at the bottom.
The whole is an intriguing, even mysterious, visual experience. The artist creates other effects incorporating fine lines of colour that at regular intervals bleed tiny patches. In these untitled works the fine lines surround and link into precise rectangles of pure colour. It makes a quality show of concentrated sensations.
The gallery is also showing work by Richard Bryant that involves wet acrylic allowed to spread and mix in patches with soft edges. The work relies on simple shapes and pathways through masses of colour that reveal the fabric on which the painting is done.
None of the works have titles so the concentration and principal appeal is the shifting tones of abstract colour that enrich the surfaces. Particularly effective are two similar paintings, one a study in shades of green, the other blue.
The single most attractive work is a grouping of five horizontal panels of red, subtly shaded and with just enough form in the lower panel to lead the eye in.
In contrast to these abstractions by young artists is a show of oils on small panels by veteran Ross Ritchie at Whitespace. Most of the panels are in subdued colour on a plain black background.
The images, which are immaculately drawn, are uncomfortable, even macabre. A typical work is Now and Then where a scholarly looking man with a high brow is juxtaposed with the brow of a skull drawn with alarming accuracy. The force of the work is most evident in a series of heads including Sunday 2am showing a victim of a fight, and Actor, which is variations on a face. Just hands alone reaching from shadows have a grim significance in The Meal and there is a design feat, Ricochet, with a single hand on a gun that merges with the dark background.
Painterly gesture is not neglected in Sphinx, an oily combed switch of hair exactly conveyed by one wide brushstroke. Ritchie's hand is as sure as ever.
At the galleries
What: Digression by Matt Arbuckle
Where and when: Tim Melville Gallery, 4 Winchester St, Newton, to August 15
TJ says: Varied example of expressive action painting in response to a surprising range of stimuli.
What: Semi-Supine View by Georgie Hill; The Strata of Silence by Richard Bryant
Where and when: Ivan Anthony Gallery, 312c Karangahape Rd, to August 15
TJ says: Both artists make use of the diffusion of wet watercolour but one allies it to sharp concentrated forms while the other concentrates on soft clouds of colour.
What: Mixing up The Medicine by Ross Ritchie
Where and when: Whitespace, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby, to August 15
TJ says: A series of small paintings of disturbing, macabre subjects done with skill and unusual imagination.