This is a week of veteran artists and new galleries. The most vigorous exhibition is Land Cadence by John Madden, who has devoted his painting life to wrestling to convey the steep hills of the west coast of the Waitakeres, particularly the area near Karekare.
His abiding emotional involvement with these hills and their relationship to the sea and their history is apparent in every painting.
The struggle is in the brushwork, done with the full-on attack and apparent spontaneity of Toss Woollaston, who was the artist's mentor. No buildings appear, just rugged hills, extreme slopes and turbulent sea and sky.
The force of Madden's approach means there are some very strong passages, particularly along the skylines and where the light hits the slopes.
By the same token there are also places where the forms dissolve in a welter of dashes of paint.
What is new is more control over tone so the best of them have an individual harmony of colour that was not characteristic in the past. When there is a sudden intense blaze of colour, such as the red on the side of a peak in Karekare Cadence, it serves to trigger a suggestion of blood spilled in a massacre in that place.
Madden is particularly good at scenes looking out through the hills to the horizon and the turbulent changes of colour where the sea meets the land. Yet there remain paintings that are a mixture. The fine sea and horizon in Anawhata River and Bay are compromised by a sweep of the river that seems to run uphill, and the foreground of Beginning of the Journey tumbles out of the painting as empty brush-strokes and a big triangle of hill is flat. In the same painting the sea is finely done.
All the forms come together in Pararaha Valley, where the rhythm of the hills has a grim poetry and the level of swamp in the foreground carries the eye into the space of the image. The show is part of a tradition of capturing the raw, rugged nature of our landscape. It is reflected in the past not only by painters but also poets, as with Denis Glover in his Sings Harry series. One painting notable for a vivid scarlet sky, a sharp peak and a sombre sea is called Red Song for Parahaha.
After many years in Parnell the Warwick Henderson Gallery has moved to Newmarket. The new space is showing the work of veteran artist Robyn Kahukiwa in a show called Tangata Whenua.
Some images are iconic, others are from real life. In a big dark painting called Hongi two stylised faces in profile solemnly capture the power of the ceremonious mingling of breath.
More naturalistic is the juxtaposition of a young woman's face with a tui. The darkness of this work is relieved by a dance of white that begins with the tui's collar, moves through a headdress of huia feathers and ends at her bone earring. The force comes from shadows that pass over the face and suggest troubled thinking.
Other faces have a brighter background and are less confrontational although they are full face with moko and the eyes look directly at the viewer.
The artist's background as an illustrator is evident in the sharp edges as well as in the more stylised work called Hine Pukenga.
In the show's title painting, Tangata Whenua, these words are repeated again and again alongside a stylised face filled with symbols and with Maori flags on its shoulders. The painting is subtitled Still Here but the point is more expressively conveyed in the assertive countenances that make up the rest of the show than in this direct message.
In another shift to new premises, Fox Jensen has moved to Putiki St in Newton to make five galleries in this short street.
The works are abstract with the exception of two still-life paintings by Jude Rae that have the luminous weight characteristic of her work. Much more extreme are Don't Ask Me Why and Out of Nowhere, recent work by Winston Roeth. Both are done on slate panels arranged absolutely formally as exercises in colour. One is shades of gold, and the other is shades of blue edging through violet into black with one central panel in green.
The artist uses special pigment in a polyurethane medium, which gives extraordinary intensity of colour. These potent colours with their slight changes from panel to panel are energised by the irregularities of the slate.
The show is completed by a complex work with a wave motion called Number 2 Waver by Geoff Thornley and a rich work by Tomislav Nikolic that is a pure, effective exercise in colour. Its stone-like quality comes from mixing the paint with marble dust. The exhibition recapitulates a similar show at the gallery's beginning and maintains its style and quality.
At the galleries
by John Madden
Where and when:
Orexart, 15 Putiki St, Newton, to April 11
The artist continues his emotionally charged images of the rugged west coast near Karekare to powerful effect.
What: Tangata Whenua by Robyn Kahukiwa
Where and when: Warwick Henderson Gallery, Level 1, 255 Broadway, Newmarket, to April 11
TJ says: Using clear, simple forms and a limited palette of colour, Robyn Kahukiwa asserts the strength of youthful figures of Maoridom and their links to tradition.
What: Painting 'Well' After Formalism: Winston Roeth, Tomislav Nikolic, Jude Rae, Geoff Thornley
Where and when: Fox/Jensen, 10 Putiki St, Newton, to April 21
TJ says: The gallery has changed its address but, in a very select show, continues its history of showing abstract work.