Felt might seem an unlikely medium for sculpture but Peter Robinson has become devoted to it. His latest expression of its qualities can be seen at Hopkinson Mossman Gallery.
Listed as eight discrete works, the show, nevertheless, makes a unified room sculpture since it spreads without boundaries or a central focus across the floor with some parts propped against the skirting. The felt is uniform in thickness and the colours are confined to plain black, yellow, blue and pink.
The show is called Die Cuts and Derivations, and the sheets of felt have shapes die-cut out of them with great precision. The shapes are geometric: circles, squares and triangles. This full installation is all of a piece with his former installation sculpture done in polystyrene, which filed rooms and even thrust through walls. Such a work, called ACK, won the Walters Prize in 2008.
Robinson's use of felt has precedents too. He has had exhibitions where small circles of cut-out felt have been mounted on rods to give them a ceremonial presence as signs of authority or markers.
In this inventive show nothing is wasted. The pieces cut out of the sheets of felt are all preserved and shown alone or in stacks.
The literature accompanying the show predictably makes mention of Joseph Beuys who famously used felt and fat in some of his works.
Beuys had been in the Luftwaffe in World War II and, according to legend, when he crashed in the snow in Russia he was found by nomads who kept him warm with felt and treated his burns with fat that ensured his survival. Subsequently he used felt as a symbol of warmth and care. Despite the reference, Robinson's work in this show shuns any such symbolic purpose. It is an academic display of abstract possibilities. The patterns cut into the flat sheets lying on the floor are inventively varied, notably in one linear work that reflects rock drawing. Yet the real inspiration comes when the flexible felt has rectangular shapes cut out of it to make a network or even cut to make a narrow frame.
The pieces cut out are arranged in stacks but the nets and frames remain as a single, coherent piece that can be twisted into a variety of shapes, sometimes simple but often complex. A sculptor's eye is evident here. A small yellow grid folded back on itself takes on a three-dimensional life of its own.
This use of the flexibility of the material is particular notable in the smaller gallery where the nets are hung on coat-hooks and folded into remarkable shapes. The complexity gives them energy denied the plain circles stacked against the walls. It does not have the sardonic wit of Robinson's early work but it energises a show that could be very static.
At Bath Street Gallery exact circles play a part in the colourful work of Denys Watkins.
His exhibition, Dissolving Empire, is full of deft feats of painting. Sassafras+Moonshine has washes of thin delicate colour with a dance of black circles that help give the painting real substance. The works are all abstract and filled with shapes and colours that Watkins has made his own. They are of substantial size and have a stylish authority.
The shapes are firm in outline and weave and loop across and under each other. The colour ranges from delicate to strong. A bold red sets the tone of Fire Starter. As well as big shapes he has added intriguing detail. The lively Fandango has a small angular form that plays neatly with perspective as well as a fall of delicate orange with red accents. Within each accent tiny flower patterns are perceptible only at close range.
Each flood of colour is flat but never entirely plain so they have a hint of a hand in their making. Often three-dimensional shapes break the pattern. Notably, enigmatic coral-like shapes with just a hint of human form or dried vegetation are at odds with the surfaces and add witty dissonances. This coral, textured shape is notable in Jules Verne, a work dominated by yellow and another dance of circles.
The initial charm of the work is enhanced by these stylish feats of painting and evidence of the long experience that goes into their making.
Kirstin Carlin is having her second exhibition at the Melanie Roger Gallery. Titled Pleasure Garden, it is an undiluted pleasure. The small works are painted in thick impasto with heavy brush strokes. The eye conspires with every stroke of the artist's hand.
The subject is woodland with a hint of an avenue that leads the eye into the space between the trees. These paintings are fresh with shades of green, pink and yellow and seem wet with rain. Even the shadows add to the general joy. They are indicated by twists of black that move across the surface and add their own piquancy to the tumble of paint and movement.
What: Die Cuts and Derivations by Peter Robinson
Where and when: Hopkinson Mossman Gallery, 19 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to August 29
TJ says: Distinguished artist Peter Robinson makes inventive patterns in wool felt, notably when twisted into sculptural shapes or hung loosely on the wall.
What: Dissolving Empire by Denys Watkins
Where and when: Bath Street Gallery, 43 Bath St, Parnell, to August 29
TJ says: Veteran artist makes accomplished paintings with invention, visual wit and colourful appeal.
What: Pleasure Garden by Kirstin Carlin
Where and when: Melanie Roger Gallery, 226 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, to August 22
TJ says: A uniform series of paintings that melds trees, paths, shadows and clouds into charming works by rhythmic, thick brushwork and pleasant colour.