Michael Hight’s new exhibition Road to Erewhon is outstanding in quality and breadth of achievement.
“Primarily the images are sourced from the Rangitata and Ashburton River valleys and the almost mythical sheep stations of Mesopotamia and Erewhon.” (1)
In Rangitata Valley (2009) Hight contrasts use and neglect, the passage of time, man’s transitory presence and nature’s omnipresence. This exceptional work is imbued with complex visual detail and narrative content in the foreground, whilst behind this (both hidden and revealed) the river valley cuts the painting almost in half. The Southern Alps then rise up or flow down, exotic forests seem dwarfed and insignificant, and numerous ridges suggest journeys. Hight’s command of light and tone, his ability to ‘deliver’ the factual naturalism of place is wonderful and compelling.
At first Mesopotamia (2009) appears a simpler work but the left to right journey established by the artist forces the viewer deep into the work – along the valley, under the trees and the cloud. Hight sources his work by going on location and thus experiences it first hand – the weather phenomena of cloud crawling along a valley and of mountains standing above is wonderfully correct and (in this work) very beautiful.
Mt. Peel (2009) employs metaphors of use and abandonment, contrasts light and dark, richness and aridity. Nothing about this landscape is natural – that is everything has been modified, altered, and industrialised. This visually rich and redolent work also presents tales of order, achievements and care.
Longslip Creek Lindis Pass” (2008) is a visual poem of winter’s passage. Erewhon (2009) uses the visual contradictions of abstract surfaces, geometry and linear form, of a landscape littered with rocks and stones partially lit by light and which rise relentlessly from the soil.
1. Artist statement, 2009.