Waipu local Brett a'Court is exhibiting his first solo show in Tai Tokerau, called Sheep, goats and other introduced spirits.

A'Court began painting in the early 90s and has become a disciplined practitioner. He is a regular exhibitor in Auckland and last exhibited at TSB Pah Homestead, the Wallace Arts Trust.

He has a holistic philosophy that culminates in powerful, evocative paintings. His sincerity as an artist in turn means those who come in contact with his work can't help but feel the struggle, the chaos, and the final acceptance within each piece.

A'Court's personal convictions are expressed in his work and communicate a complex blend of Christian iconography with his lifestyle as a contemporary rural New Zealander.

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As with Colin McCahon, a'Court crosses over cultures and works with a European "hang over" which by definition places him in the middle of our post-colonial issues. He is shrugging off white wash, pop culture, cynicism — but hints at irony.

In a series of four landscapes, his strong spiritual reference crosses the path of the whenua, with emblematic images conjuring up Aotearoa's history of colonisation.

As a painter, a'Court is constantly evolving; his powerful vision is complemented by confident painterly surfaces exploding with colour, text, collage, flags, icons, and above all persistence.

His move from oil paint to acrylic has altered the surface texture with a ''stilling'' effect noticeable on the smaller animalistic works and a definite lightening of the palette, a signal of adaptations and experimentation with the medium.

The artist's great maelstrom of gestural strokes and strong black lines are interlaced with layers that acknowledge chaos, but there is stillness in the eye of the storm, a hard won harmony.

There are multiple themes including Lamb of God, vanitas (life and death symbolism in still life works) and Christianity. Skilfully drafted animal skulls reflect their mortality and also the human condition.

There are symbols like modern hieroglyphics, Facebook icons, biblical quotes and human organs woven with wild yet articulate brush strokes heavily cast layer upon layer on the canvas. There is soul searching to refresh and contemporise faith, to find a bridge on a path to individual enlightenment.

A'Court invests in a visual language that is both complex and passionate; he has established a personal pilgrimage to search for an Aotearoa/New Zealand identity in his practice.

In the words of the artist: "This body of work connects mythology and biblical symbols of certain introduced animals of Aotearoa to my Pakeha Christian identity. Within this is my intention to pierce the veil of this world to the next. In the tradition of vanitas, the paintings aim to show the transience of life, narratives of the afterlife, superstitions and even salvation." - By Barry Squire

Sheep, goats and other introduced spirits; September 22 until October 20 at Hangar Gallery 14 Cross St, Regent. Brett a'Court will give an artist talk at the venue on Friday September 28.