Surface, colour and form are inextricably linked in painting. Three shows this week mix them in different ways.
At Whitespace gallery Rebecca Harris has a palette of colour all her own. It involves a good deal of dark shadowy tones from which dense vivid greens and reds emerge.
This range of colour has been used to good effect in previous shows, especially when showing imagined hills and lakes that have the slightly sinister quality of such things as folk tales or myths.
There are good examples of these imaginative, romantic settings in Lifting the Moss, where strange flowers in red and luminous green float up as the border of a mysterious pond that has touches of violet. There are similar effects in Nowhere Lake where there is bright cloud above dense crawling plants around the water.
The rest of the paintings show a shift to figures that contain animal forms, dark clefts and thick vegetation while retaining unmistakable shapes of animals and hints of demons. Apple Wound and Fly Catcher have deep, folding cavities.
Harris' technique of allowing the paint to run and create intricate patterns of the growth of stalks and branches by scraping through to the hard surfaces on which she paints matches her dense foliage, notably in Nowhere Lake.
These phantasmagorical images are shown against plain backgrounds, which emphasise their strident, discordant colour, notably in the horrible, demonic face in Preserve.
They are shown as almost absorbed in vegetation.
They are best when there are exotic flowers around the bottom edge of the painting that recall the work of Symbolist painters such as Odilon Redon.
These flowers are a solution to the tendency to let the images just flow out of the bottom edges of the painting. In these grotesque figures the colour becomes plainer, less modelled and much more strident.
The paintings range from the Romantic to something striking but rather unsettling.
Oliver Perkins is a young New Zealand painter working in England but showing here at Hopkinson Mossman gallery. His work is abstract fields of colour modified by an inventive variety of forms. These are often no more than the slightly bevelled edges of a painting or the raising of one surface above another like a painting on top of a painting with the colour fields interacting. They are made sculptural by these changes of level. The size varies from big solemn works to little lively pieces such as Birk.
Sometimes there is an element of wit in the forms. Sapling is a slim stem of green against sky blue and framed in yellow. It is a clever abstraction of a young shoot.
One very bright little work is a collage of material dotted with random colour but arranged so that they convincingly, at a short distance, read as a page layout of a traditional comic.
The variety of changes in form is very inventive. Metronome has a wooden rod off centre that suggests a beat. Anthem has rich strong colour on two levels and a dignified black pillar in the centre. This variety of form is the work of a young painter who has responded well to modern academic teaching and whose talent for invention in form within accepted confines shows a potential not yet entirely focused.
The paintings of Mervyn Williams at Artis Gallery lock together form and colour.
They also combine traditional painting techniques with modern digital design. After his large retrospective exhibition the artist continues confidently to build on the momentum. All these paintings are large and have considerable impact and carrying power.
Most notable are those that have bare circles in fields of intense colour. In a work such as Bowler the colour is confined to red and green. At the centre is a glowing, shaded sphere of red surrounded by a halo of pale green. The green expands outward in dim rings that grow darker toward the edges of the painting. They are interrupted at one stage by an immaculately painted, vivid ring of red. This ring makes the work pulse with energy emphasising the depth of the green.
Its optical effects are matched by the brilliant circles of Diva, which also makes play with red that produces dim after-images when the eye is allowed to move around the painting.
Simplicity of composition does not exclude complexity of effect. The cross shapes Red Renewal and Fabric of Time have their remarkable luminosity of colour modulated by corners of precise narrow stripes. In other works the circular forms dissolve in the lines, which themselves are subject to subtle changes in tone and an almost indistinguishable movement of shadows on the surface
Circles and lines combine in the spectacular Twilight where the edge of the circle breaks the continuous lines into shallow perspective until they almost, but not quite, dissolve in the depths of the rich blue.
It all makes for an exhibition full of impressive sensory experience, which after the initial impact repays further time spent looking into the work.
At the galleries
Paintings by Rebecca Harris
Where and when:
Whitespace Contemporary Art, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby, to June 6
Romantic lakes in rich sombre colour are matched with bizarre creatures with human, animal and vegetable features.
What: Armatures by Oliver
Where and when: Hopkinson Mossman Gallery, 19 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to June 6
TJ says: Attractive abstract paintings in varied size and mood by a young talent with potential to expand into an individual style.
What: Facade, by Mervyn Williams
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 280 Parnell Rd, to June 8
TJ says: After his long career and a major retrospective show last year Mervyn Williams takes his large, vivid abstract paintings to new levels.