Three strands pervade the artwork of Darryn George. First, there is the sensual austerity of western geometric abstraction, harking back to De Stijl and Elementarist art. George's work echoes that of artists such as Theo van Doesburg, and continues a thread which links also to the work of Barnett Newman and Frank Stella.
Of more importance is the artist's identity as Ngapuhi. George's paintings repeatedly reflect traditional Maori craft. In his current exhibition, the paintings are tukutuku-like panels, their form echoing the poutama "stairway to Heaven" motif. The paint - in bold colours only marginally removed from the customary black, ivory, and sienna - also speaks to this acknowledgement of traditional art. As with the work of Ralph Hotere and Gordon Walters, the underlying symbolic language of Maori art is implicit in this work.
The third important thread in George's art is his faith. It is no coincidence that the traditional poutama motif, with its connotations of the quest and achievement of spiritual knowledge, should be such a major feature in this exhibition. As with Hotere (and also Newman), George is using his art as a tool to explore spirituality and to pay homage to the Creator. This quest of the poutama is a deeply personal one.
In this exhibition, the artist has moved away from the use of rough surface texture, with its analogies to carving, instead replacing this with alternating fields of high gloss and muted sheen. The figure-ground effects caused by the repeated patterns and rhythmic juxtaposition of different surfaces is somehow simultaneously contemplative and thrilling.
Perhaps the most startling paintings in this exhibition are the smallest, and mark a new direction for the artist. In a series of works which appear almost as sketches for full-sized pieces, the gates are almost literally thrown wide. In these images, the poutama is absent, replaced by a dark void against which a nebula of iridescent cloud appears. These works are - if you'll pardon the pun - a revelation. Perhaps they symbolise the Heaven which lies at the end of the stairway, its shimmering pearlescence giving a tantalising yet intangible view at the beyond. George has, perhaps, entered a promised land in these new pieces, and it is for us, the viewers, to follow him in.