Bruce Hunt’s paintings of Central Otago have the immediate hallmarks of topographical accuracy (Corridors II, Valley of the Otekaike – Danseys, etc) while also evoking the unmistakeable essential moods, atmospheres and interlocking structures (The Lindis, Mt. Melina) which make it so extraordinary and distinctive. Upon this, he places poems of light as in Pyramids II.
Hunt’s understanding of this landscape has been built from direct interaction, through perception and values to the extent that his landscapes codify facts, circumstance and realities as much as they represent the politics of choice and use (Lagoon at Rocklands and Trough on Rocklands).
This exhibition entitled The Ochre Triangle refers to three locations – Lindis Pass, the Dunstan Trail, Danseys Pass – and clearly reinforces the already considerable claims for Hunt to be discussed alongside Grahame Sydney and Michael Hight. Sydney (primarily) presents landscape through the paraphrase of tone and viewed from middle distance, using buildings, signposts and roads to contrast, simplify and key line of sight. Hight in comparison establishes works of startling complexity through the metaphor of the beehive, a landscape that is worked and inhabited, and a tableaux composition which has sculptural and abstract concerns underpinning the details. Hunt sits between these opposite approaches and places the viewer (by direct involvement) in what is seen and experienced (Tussocklands, Te Papanui). He goes to places, to vantage positions few have been to in the high country. In The Ochre Triangle he reveals the vastly differing geology and structural architecture found there. In so doing Hunt extends and deepens the debate and visual experience of the Central Otago landscape, showing the subject of that landscape to be much more than absence or industry or geomorphology or the coming and going of light.
Bruce Hunt uses a free-fluid layering technique - building surface from the back forward. Over the top of this intuitive (but essentially) descriptive process is the formalisation of fact, interpretation and pictorial emphasis. The works have an impressively restricted palette. They are particular, individually argued and the information contained has both a sense of history and of journeys yet to be completed (Mt. David – The Danseys).
These paintings also carry the political and social importance of considerable environmental dialogue and are especially significant and pertinent now because of the Project Hayes wind farm proposal. If adopted this proposal will irreparably alter the unique qualities, isolation and historic importance of the Dunstan Trail and the alpine wilderness desert of the Lammermoor Range. Hunt’s paintings while compellingly complete and beautiful in themselves also stand in testimony to what may be lost forever.