Mike Petre’s paintings of cattle have achieved iconic status in New Zealand art.
In the black and white works Petre uses a medley of materials (ink, graphite, oil and acrylic) and an array of painterly techniques. Significant in his approach to the subject is a sophisticated use of implication, allusion, paraphrase and understatement.
In Field Study 272 Petre establishes volume and body mass with adroit use of liquid pools of black and white. He suggests a landscape and positions the cattle beasts as if floating in it. This stylistic technique which unites all of the black and white works serves to remind us these are farmed animals, a commodity bred to die in order to feed us. The animals look out – at the viewer and fate – from behind deeply shadowed eye sockets.
In Field Study 273 as well as Field Study 277 and Field Study 276 there is a palpable sense of something about to happen, of events taking place out of view and this dramatic device activates these works well beyond the canvas.
In Field Study 275 and Field Study 274 Petre turns to more direct, realistic statements by altering the dynamic and his technique completely. He adds an olive green background and builds an impasto surface by using a palette knife. This unites the animals and landscape, and presents them as literally entwined.
The exhibition also includes two separate suites of fine paintings on paper.