Sarah Williams' decision to change the exhibition openings at Space Gallery from Saturdays to Wednesdays seems to have paid off, judging by the number of people who were present last week. The more spacious premises allow two, if not three, shows to run in tandem, and Gallery 1 is displaying a series of portraits by Jana Branca, from South Africa, now resident in New Plymouth. Her oil paintings are strong and aggressive, revealing the individuality of her subjects, an important factor in her work, emphasised by the use of the nicknames of each one. In her statement, she makes the point that "flesh" equals "character", reflecting a "constant change and development", which she aims to delineate in her paintings.

In Gallery 2 there is a joint exhibition by Katherine Claypole and Sophie Klerk, Into the Blue, "capturing the blue at the far edge of what can be seen", exemplified by mountains, rivers, horizons. There is a pleasing juxtaposition of Sophie's mixed media works, ink on paper, and Katherine's stitched thread on canvas. The precise geometrical formation of the latter blends well with the angularity of the overlapping materials of the former. Dennis McGowan, an architect with an eye for structure, told me that the "architectural quality" of Sophie's creations strongly appealed. The exhibitions run until May 18.

MIKE: At the opening of Don Hill's exhibition, In the Landscape, at Fine Arts Gallery last Friday, a comment was passed that Don was the best painter in Whanganui, and had been for some years. A strong case could be made for that claim. The large number of paintings on show have one common factor — consistency. There is no obvious weakness in anything the artist takes as his subject. Nature (rivers, cliffs, skies, beaches, hills), living creatures (men, cattle, dogs), material objects (boats, tractors, sheds) — all are depicted with photographic realism. For some viewers that could be a disadvantage. Why not simply take a photograph? But this argument is easily deflected by the sheer amount of skill and patience required for these oil on board works.


Muted shades of green, brown, grey and blue dominate the scenes, themselves either familiar or so alive as to feel familiar. Surely I've been there? When? Oh, perhaps not. The upper reaches of the Whanganui River, Ngawi with its rusty tractors, Milford Sound — beautiful. My favourite has to be Downpour, in which the stoicism of both stockmen and cattle, under cold, miserable, slanting rain, was palpable. Not possessing a natural aptitude for art appreciation, I tend to go by what Joan once said, when I asked why she disliked a painting I quite enjoyed. "It lacks soul," was her answer. To me that seems a pretty fair yardstick, and I reckon Downpour meets that prerequisite. Don's show ends on May 30.

JOAN: I very much regret not seeing Fleur Wilkes' latest exhibition held over the last two Saturdays. Fleur's work is always profound in thought and yet has a simplicity that links her feelings gently with those of the observer. Her paintings very much suit being displayed in the rooms of a private home, so Fleur was thrilled by the large attendance at the Great North Rd house of a friend where her work was displayed. Sometimes an exhibition in a formal gallery setting cannot capture the intimacy of the artist's creations as well as an actual home. I saw this to be true when I attended an earlier exhibition of Fleur's work in her own lovely cottage. In thanking those who had attended her exhibition, Fleur told her visitors that they "really, properly saw my work and understood a little bit of my heart as you did so". Named the tenderness project, I envy those of you who were able to go and see it. Another such exhibition again soon, please!

MIKE: A visit with a difference on Saturday afternoon to Confluence, that cosy little cinema on Watt St. Instead of actually watching a film, I was part of a group being filmed by Kevin Double. In front of a green screen, we stood, moved and spoke, in accordance with instructions from Kevin and Karen Craig, writer and director of the project. The purpose of the exercise was to produce a phone app for an Augmented Reality tour of Whanganui. The apps will be on sale at the i-Site, then visitors can wander round our city, pointing phones at specific buildings, enabling them to "see" a story, not merely hear it. It is hoped that this will complement the Walking Tours, which are available at weekends.

The first story was the well known confrontation between Mayor Mackay and Darcy Cresswell. Having played Mackay a few years ago during the centenary celebrations of the Dublin Street Bridge, I was this time cast as a prosecuting lawyer, virtually accusing myself of attempted murder! Observing Kevin at work was extremely interesting, as he organised lighting, sound, entries and position of actors, and much more. The ultimate touch of professionalism, for me, was the use of a clapperboard! What a thrill to hear "Take 1" or perhaps, "Take 27"! In fact, neither eventuated, as the board simply delineated the takes, without the need for a numbered list.
The WDC and the Chamber of Commerce will be shown the resulting film, in a bid to engage financial support for the undertaking. Watch this space!

Comments and suggestions to mjstreet@xtra.co.nz