There's an intriguing circularity about the course of Darryn George's art. Starting within the tradition of Māori patterns, the artist amalgamated these forms within the style of Greek key patterns. Then, moving from these geometries to a more representational style, George presented what seemed like some Greek Arcadian idyll, before adding elements which tied the scenes directly back to New Zealand, in the form of our native birds.
This is not uncommon among contemporary New Zealand artists: the exploring of the dichotomy between Europe and Aotearoa as expressed in art is a fertile ground for creativity. In George's case, there is the further seasoning provided by the artist's religious faith. These are not Elysian fields but the Garden of Eden - the pristine prelapsarian land of Genesis.
This is a world without sin, a world removed from the problems of the modern world. It is a world to be devoutly desired, and it is easy to draw parallels between it and some memory/myth of pristine Aotearoa, the last land to be touched and corrupted by humans. A land dominated by the birds which form key elements in our perception of the country and in Māori myth. Waterfalls, symbolic of purification and abundance, also dominate the scenes. We see New Zealand as a new Garden of Eden, with kōtare and ruru amongst the banana leaves and tī kōuka.
Aside from their symbolic meanings, birds and waterfalls are recurring tropes in New Zealand painting, and by focussing on these themes, George ties his art firmly into the mainstream of the nation's artistic narrative, with links from McCahon to Binney, Van der Velden to Hammond, and beyond all these to pre-European cave art.
The world of the paintings is presented with an abundant joy. Colours and forms are exaggerated, creating naive psychedelic vegetation and brilliant bright birds. The soft pastel forms of the waterfalls excellently imply the motion of the water, yet paradoxically provide still focal points around which the scenes move. Heavily impastoed oil, absent from much of the artist's recent work, makes a re-appearance, adding an extra element of depth to the vibrant milieu.
The scenes are not of haphazard arrangements of plants. This is a garden created by the Supreme Creator, and as such, there is order and sense to the designs. In Garden of Eden (9.12.22), the image is arrayed in formal layers, and similar structural elements can be found in the arrangement of leaves in Garden of Eden (14.3.23). We are left with a world that is either too good to be true because of the hand of the Maker, or depicted in this way because a mere human artist cannot present the real garden without reverting to playful child-like wonder.