The New Zealand landscape is an established and traditional subject matter in New Zealand’s art history. In this exhibition artists depict the southern landscape in a language of their own revealing multi-layered detail, subject matter and context.
Peter James Smith, Scott McFarlane, Garry Currin and Elizabeth Rees paint landscapes layered with meaning, which contain an awareness of time, place and history.
Peter James Smith’s five-panel work is fundamental to this exhibition. The paintings shift focus between the past and present combining the precision of a mathematician with conventions of the sublime. Smith’s romantic portrayal of the Fiordland vista is overlayed with historical text and mathematical equations. Here he references the romantic era of exploration and painting style and interrogates the way we perceive these in the present.
Scott McFarlane layers topography, amplifying the landscape, collapsing time and evoking a sense of history. Elizabeth Rees articulates the timelessness of the natural environment. Her landscape is as much a mindscape, full of paradox and contradiction that constructs more questions and enigmas than answers. Garry Currin’s paintings share Rees’ sense of timelessness. His Otago landscapes walk between the space of dream and reality, abstraction and realism.
The implied presence of humans within a realist landscape is a central concern for Mark Cross, Wayne Barrar, and Simon Edwards. Both Edwards and Cross use this as a mechanism to include the viewer, while Barrar comments on the impact of mankind on the environment.
Nigel Brown and Peter Cleverley celebrate the southern landscape through a language of signs and symbols. Cleverley’s Sing The Song The Waiata…, draws upon theological text to provide a lyrical connection with the Otago landscape. While Brown’s The Four Elements translates mythological figures into an iconic New Zealand landscape.
The landscape is abstracted and simplified to coloured planes in the work of J.S. Parker, Michael Hight and Kathy Barber. Barber’s paintings have both an abstract and representational quality and are remarkable in composition, spatial depth and luminosity. Parker unites tonal harmony in his balanced geometric compositions, alluding to the flat plains of the Canterbury and Marlborough region. Hight is a rare artist who demonstrates an equally remarkable ability with representational works and geometric abstraction. Hight’s Gapes Valley and Lake Heron echo the horizontal contours of the land. His weather beaten beehives communicate the profound relationship between mankind and the environment.