You open the door and the balloons on the floor in the front part of the gallery jump around, agitated. You know it is the wind but it is like a response to an intruder.

You go into the main gallery and the balloons are more polite. One rises to meet you and the rest shuffle around to make room like people at a crowded gallery opening.

Most of the balloons are pompous and inflated; some have got a bit flaccid and deflated.

At the opening of this exhibition by Martin Creed at the Michael Lett Gallery, some of the balloons escaped and bounded across Karangahape Rd and were seized by random collectors.

Some expired under a bus. Others just floated far away. Is that what it's all about, balloons as people?

British artist Creed has all the kudos that comes with winning the Turner Prize, international renown and tabloid notoriety.

So there must be something to the work, but truth to tell, it is just balloons on the floor, the remnants of a party piece.

The artist describes it as "silly" and it is hard to disagree. Every exhibition these days involves this thrashing around after meaning.

Further along Karangahape Rd at the Ivan Anthony Gallery until November there is A Glitch by Roger Mortimer who has gone all Chinese.

Gracing the show are a couple of elaborate Chinese vases bought from the Warehouse, and the Chinese style extends to the paintings.

These are done in something of an oriental manner with rocks emerging from a misty atmospheric landscape. These rocky landscapes are littered with white stumps, dying cabbage trees and other dead trees which give life only to epiphytes.

Every painting features a stalking cat like some sort of domestic Fate.

Accompanying these landscapes are bands of decoration copied from the vases. Most of the paintings are adorned with passages of English in the immaculate Gothic lettering the artist has used throughout his career.

Once again this is domestic because the text is from power bills or transfer of car ownership.

What is the meaning of these paintings beyond their appeal as pale washy evocations of rural decay?

Do the dead trees symbolise a way of thinking that is dying out? Do the Chinese patterns reflect our multicultural society?

Does the lettering evoke a European past? Do the texts reflect a governmental presence?

As in the past, Mortimer's paintings are intriguing by the force of their sheer disquieting oddity.

In Upper Queen St at the Jensen Gallery until the end of the month is a show by Stephen Bambury, considered one of the country's outstanding abstract painters.

What meaning can we abstract from his simple rectangular forms? First there are the lovely surfaces, which simply by being attractive have at least visual meaning.

It is easy to verbalise about meaning from the long painting made of seven panels which is another of his Chinese Whispers works.

The texture of the surface progresses from one panel to the next, always changing but staying with the same visual theme confined between darker forms.

It makes a solemn progression. The theme is handled as sensitively as in previous versions of the same idea.

This is an appealing show, Bambury creating works in the style he has steadily developed throughout his career. These are paintings of serious intent; thoughtful without being loudly insistent.

Across the road, at the Roger Williams Gallery until October 28, there is show of misty landscapes by Esther Leigh that is also far from insistent.

The artist has placed forms behind glass, flooded them with water and photographed the forms through the glass in soft focus.

There is just enough material to set the imagination going: dim forms of hills, a cascade of pearls, perhaps a drowned cathedral, perhaps treasure at the bottom of the sea. Transformations that suggest Shakespeare's "those are pearls that were his eyes" - a sea change into something rich and strange.

But the richness is so muted by the all-prevailing greyness of these works that much of the dream or surrealist meaning is washed out of them.

At the Parnell Gallery, where New Zealand's official army artist Captain Matt Gauldie has a show until October 22, there is nothing misty except an elegiac image of a piper on the battlefield of the Somme.

More typically, barefoot Maori children ride bareback on horses they control with ropes for reins. There are neat gestures and colour.

A man selling tomatoes has a bright red face; a Tamboko girl from the Solomon Islands stands picturesquely on one leg.

The lush tropical foliage on this painting is as accurately depicted as the dusty rocky ground in Afghanistan where the artist is now on duty.

No mystery here, no ambiguity, just painterly competence in the Peter McIntyre manner that doesn't quite extend to flesh painting.