The South Island landscape as a subject in New Zealand art has been predominant, and through this visual history particular stylistics and points of view – such as Man Alone and the Romantic Alpine Landscape – have entered the general currency of New Zealander’s and become regarded as cultural matters of fact.
Looking South is an important group exhibition which presents many of the new, more considerable dialogues about the South Island landscape, and revealed in this process is a significant change of perception, identity and the advent (as in re-invigoration and re-emergence) of geographic, provincial regionalism.
In the works of Michael Hight, Geoffrey Notman, Callum Arnold and Simon Edwards a farmed, peopled, substantially modified or altered landscape is revealed. This is contrasted sharply by Stanley Palmer’s nostalgic portrayal of Karamea and the West Coast, Bruce Hunt’s line of sight, topographical studies of the interlocking rhythms of the Otago highland landscape, and with Neil Frazer’s ‘as if hewn’ from the very mountains, rocks and snow-covered faces of the Southern Alps.
Scott McFarlane builds myths and reaches out to the spirit of the land. Nigel Brown uses object symbolism, his trademark narrative techniques including the physical architecture of words to evoke and question. Garry Currin likewise questions, identifying change, use and consequence as never-ending. Tony Bishop establishes visions of paradise, the joyous sense of summer holidays and then reveals this to be under-threat, destabilised. Peter James Smith amalgamates the romantic sublime and scientific knowledge. Bob Kerr slices the landscape into unusual, elongated panoramas. Elizabeth Rees presents the alpine landscape transformed by referred light, shows how the common sunrises and sunsets can and do cause the extraordinary.