The Collector's Collection: Warwick Henderson's Feedback
Summer has arrived in the Coromandel and certainly north of the central plateau. The sweet scent of wisteria proudly hang off the pergolas of a bach in Tairua, strands of jasmine peek from unstained fence palings in Whitianga, and the spicy fragrance of some ground hugging freesias in Port Road, Whangamata, confirm the welcome reality.
Throw in a bracing salt air ocean breeze from Pauanui and the only thing left to square it off would be a substantial spring art exhibition mounted by local artists. And indeed this is what we have.
The “Collectors Collection Exhibition”, a group show mounted by the enthusiastic curators of The Little Gallery Tairua, spearheaded by Sarah Holden is an ambitious one by virtue of its title, but they have nonetheless managed to garner a wide range of over 35 artworks to complete the show. Most of the artists are unknown to me and it is therefore often difficult to form a fair opinion of an artwork without the benefit of viewing a body of work. Nevertheless my brief was to comment on aspects of the show and several individual artworks included in the exhibition.
While it must be said, that serious collectors these days move in ostensibly a more rarefied atmosphere than local art exhibitions, the more canny and experienced know fine artworks appear at provincial art exhibitions regularly. Often these shows will include a few emerging, well established and highly respected artists as well, and as immediate proof we see an accomplished work by Carole Shepherd entitled fittingly “Something Curious to Think About” included in the exhibition.
I had expected to see an overwhelming body of spring and summer images but diversity is a positive feature of the collection. Nevertheless paintings such as “Pohutukawa at Otama” by Jane Galloway, “Te Karo Boardwalk”, by Souzie Speerstra, and “The Pleasure of Summer” by Gary Nevin convey our current holiday aspirations and cherished screensaver destinations precisely . The rolling breakers of “Ocean Beach” by Airdrie Hamilton don’t go amiss either. Art often reflects the environment from where it originates and this can go beyond inviting images of rolling breakers, foaming surf, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Nevertheless Jenni De Groot’s “Hillscape 1”, Ian Girven’s “New Chums Beach” and Airdrie Hamilton’s “Ocean Beach” are not only competently handled but appropriate reminders given this uplifting time of the season. There is an instant connection here and these paintings could be early sellers.
Despite the somewhat reduced palette and autumnal nature of Shepherd’s work this painting does indeed give the viewer “something to think about”. There is a lot to like about this painting and there are aspects to it which more than meet the eye. Skilful shading, transparent overlapping, a well worked detailed background, a carefully designed and thought-out composition – these are generally recognised ingredients to a resolved and successful artwork. This painting would be an agreeable addition to any art collection.
A strong landscape which depicts another aspect of the weather is Jo Dalgety’s “After Patinir: Crying aloud in the wilderness”. While this painting is not a peopled landscape, Flemish artist Patinir has certainly proved inspirational. Inspiration is a fine thing but the artist must then embrace this and conjure up a successful conclusion. Dalgety has achieved this admirably with subtle washes of ultramarine, cobalt blue and sap green. While it could be said there is a degree of flexibility and artistic licence allowable when working with damp paper there is almost an element of luck involved too, as an overflow can be hard to correct. Here the artist has reduced any rawness of colour with subtle washes and a line or two of graphite.
I mentioned earlier that environment is a strong influence on art and there is no better example than Kate Hill’s “Future Fruiting”. In the book “Behind the Canvas”, reference is made to the significance of the development of a South Pacific art movement in New Zealand and I believe Hill’s work is a fine example of this now established genre.
It also indicates the ongoing strength of New Zealand printmaking which has been a feature of New Zealand artwork harking back to the day of artists such as Mervyn Taylor, Trevor Lloyd, Hilda Wiseman and Adele Younghusband, and more latterly for example Pat Hanley, Ralph Hotere and Fatu Feu’u. There are of course many more printmakers too numerous to mention but to be compared to these artists is notable. Design, originality and craftsmanship play a critical part in original printmaking and despite plumbing a recognised theme, Hill has managed to produce a standout in my opinion.
Sculpture is not left out in this exhibition and a work which will be well appreciated is “Female Form” by Tony Howse. Much sculpture, while a traditional art form, has to an extent departed or morphed into assemblage, installation and abstract forms since the beginning of the 20th century. Wood-carved sculpture though, even from primitive origins has survived surprisingly well over the centuries. Swamp kauri is a splendid local resource but it now faces the stigma of prolific use for crafting table tops, kitchenware and accessory furniture. This phenomena becomes irrelevant when the material is sculptured into an artwork as fine as “Female Form”. Figurative sculpture is no easy undertaking as scale and proportion are paramount, even if slightly exaggerated such as with this piece. It is a delicate balance which I feel the artist has successfully achieved.
An abstract by Trevor Bayly “Field of Dreams” is also worthy of investigation as is his other work “Cruciform #2”. This artist appears to be well in control of his medium and as the title of Carol Shepherd’s fine painting suggests it also gives us “Something Curious to Think About”. This is what enduring art often provides.
Why, even if this art fails to offer you something to consider, the magic of the Tairua estuary and its surroundings surely will.
Warwick Henderson, October 2014
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