Liberal Application: Claudia Jowitt

I was very excited to see that Claudia Jowitt was exhibiting this month.  Her latest (and only second solo) exhibition Liberal Application is at Bath Street Gallery; tucked down one of the meandering streets of Parnell and dangerously close to Vaniye, a French patisserie.

A substantial show with 26 impressive new works, Jowitt explores notions of potentiality and becoming in the painting process.  Jowitt has described how painting is an arena where each action can potentially bring about entire change, that there is life within the marks on canvas which turn it into a palpable story of its own creation.[1]  Essentially what we are shown are artworks that contain the vestiges of paint at play, an account of all the possible directions that emerge in their genesis.

Skilfully employing both acrylic and oil paints in subdued shades of white and other muted hues, it can be easy to glimpse past her work, especially when displayed against white walls.  However Jowitt’s paintings require being looked at; in fact, I found their unassuming monochromatic palette actually demanding attention.  The subtle modulations along the pastel coloured spectrum skirmish for recognition and regard.

Jowitt has applied paint with liberal generosity, and the paint itself has dispersed liberally across the canvas.  The vacillating brushwork made up of intensely thick, toothpaste-like impasto that squiggles and squirms, contrasts areas where an airy brush has scantily licked the surface.  She has applied paint past the edge of the canvas, all around the sides, giving the impression that these works extend and connect beyond the canvas or paper.  This is evident in a number of her paintings for instance, Legato I – II (both 2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 500 x 550 mm).

As you pause before the tactility of Jowitt’s art, expanses reveal and hide, tantalising the eye.  Ridges emerge casting penumbral veils over painted plains when the works are viewed at a distance.  On some of the artworks, such as Sway (2016, acrylic and oil on linen, 350 x 300 mm) the exposed linen canvas adds to the eye’s attempt to decipher, as it disrupts the daubs of white.  The longer you look at her paintings, the more your initial thoughts and interpretations shift.  In a way, the gratification received from Jowitt’s work is slow releasing.  I think if I were to visit this show again (which I likely will) I would see something different and new that I may have missed before.

An astounding exhibition with loads to see, Liberal Application is on at Bath Street Gallery, Parnell until Saturday 2nd April 2016.  As part of White Night, the gallery will be open from 5:30 – 10pm on Saturday 12th March with DJ Johnny Elbo from Yam Jams playing a live vinyl set 🙂

Jowitt was recently named the 2016 Tautai Pacific Artist in Residence at the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic.  I can’t wait to see what she does next!

For info on the exhibition, please see Bath Street Gallery’s website:

Quite a good interview with Jowitt from 2014 can be found below:

Enjoy!  And don’t forget White Night is coming up very soon 😀


˟Update 08.03.16: Artsdiary have posted some photos of the opening, check them out here

˟Update 02.08.16: A great catalogue accompanied this exhibition, featuring the artist’s conversations with Amber Wilson, Kara Wallace and Lisa Rayner.  The section with Wilson, Feminine Painting/Painting Feminine, has been made accessible through the Melanie Roger Gallery website and Pantograph Punch

[1] ‘Claudia Jowitt Dunedin Air,’ Tautai Pacific Arts Trust, accessed March 6, 2016,


Made of Snow

Hello hello!

2 0 1 6.  When did this happen?  Time just flies by faster and faster; I blinked and it’s suddenly the end of January!  I hope everyone had a stunning sun-kissed summer (with the appropriate sun protection), and with a new year comes new adventures.

I recently headed south to visit the Franklin Art Centre in Pukekohe.  Currently exhibiting is Made of Snow, a group show featuring Liyen Chong, Jacquelyn Greenbank, Laura Marsh, Ani O’Neill and Ngaio Rue Blackwood.  Curated by Kara Wallace, these five female artists share an affinity in their praxes: each explore the handmade and crafts, oftentimes repurposing and recontextualising quotidian objects and materials.

Starting from the right, the first five works are by Jacquelyn Greenbank.  Depicting what I believe are landscapes, they are delicately embroidered on linen with varied long and short stitches making up the scenes.  They also apparently glow in the dark!  I unfortunately couldn’t find the light switch 😛  Greenbank explained in a radio interview, how every stitch is done by hand and this is important in creating an entry level to the world of art for the audience, in that everybody has an aunty that knits.[1]  And certainly the titles of these artworks appear the reference this, with traditional names such as Peg (Margaret), Alma and Mary (all 2015).  I think Greenbank emphasises the significance of such craft and skills, which are steadily disappearing.

Moving along the right wall, Ngaio Rue Blackwood has exquisitely stitched bees and honeycomb on circles of linen.  Blackwood is greatly interested in the handmade and creating lines freehand.  Furthermore, her fascination with the hexagonal shape, which proliferate her paintings and other works, lends itself effortlessly to this subject.  Drawing inspiration from her garden and the outdoors, I think the fragility and delicacy of Blackwood’s artworks reference the delicacy of our ecosystem, as we are dependent upon bees for pollination and seed production.  Sometimes it is easy to forget how vital these unassuming insects are, but Blackwood’s work asks us to focus on the small things.

Continuing with all things embroidered, Liyen Chong’s artworks are intricate and meticulously constructed – she has actually used hair as thread.  Chong’s practice often traverses Western and Eastern styles and concepts, and hair embroidery has a presence both in ancient Chinese culture as well as in the Victorian era.  I almost couldn’t believe these were constructed from hair, as such intense focus and precise attention would be required.  With Square Maze (2008) and Round Maze (2008), I found the use of hair particularly poignant.  The hair’s journey to construct such a labyrinthine pattern could be equated to the complexities of human life and all its twists and turns; sometimes life can be like a maze.

Laura Marsh’s three artworks are site specific installations that examine New Zealand’s colonised cultural landscape.  Transient and temporal, My Land (2016) is a particular favourite, and consists of 0.15 m2 of actual South Island soil contained in a wooden crate with a miniature tent pitched on it.  Originally from the South Island, Marsh has mimicked her migration by bringing a portion of ‘her land’ with her.  Whilst a personal expression of her individual journey, I felt it could also be quite political.  Whose land is it really?  By recontextualising something you are likely to see ‘everyday’ like grass and dirt, I think Marsh’s striking work brings to the fore the ongoing debate of land ownership in New Zealand.

Lastly, Ani O’Neill’s latest installation Space Craft (2016) looks like something that’s just crashed from outer space.  Displayed up high and clustered around some metal pipes, it consists of ocean blue donut pool floats, silver tinsel and hoops.  Casting larger than life and slightly eerie shadows on the wall, I’m not sure what to make of this work.  It’s indeed a contrast when compared to her earlier practice, which drew on the handcrafts of her Cook Island heritage to create works that examine our contemporary world.  I do wonder if O’Neill has selected these items from outlets or op shops, and by altering their context, she has generated a space for contemplation and questions… quite a few questions 🙂

A compelling and engaging exhibition, I did mull over the meaning of the title Made of Snow.  I surmise that as the gallery is a typical ‘white cube’ space, and as a number of the works (Greenbank, Blackwood and Chong’s) are of this wintery white hue, it was like searching for snowflakes against a blanket of snow.  You do need to get up close and intimate to examine them, and marvel at their intricacy and individuality – like how no two snowflakes are the same.  Similarly, the fleeting quality of Marsh and O’Neill’s works is analogous with the ephemeral nature of anything made of snow.

For info on current or upcoming exhibitions see Facebook:

And below are links to some of the artists’ pages:

Made of Snow is on until Saturday 5th March 2016 at the Franklin Art Centre, Pukekohe.  Not to be missed.


[1] Jacquelyn Greenbank, ‘Knitted and Knotted’, radio interview with Lynn Freeman, Arts on Sunday, broadcast Sunday 28 August 2011,



Pamela Wolfe | Savage Beauty

Spring time calls for spring flowers, and at Artis Gallery in Parnell, Pamela Wolfe presents her latest works in an exhibition titled Savage Beauty, as part of Artweek Auckland.

Wolfe’s paintings explore notions of transience and fleeting beauty through floral still lifes.  Exquisitely painted in splendid detail, all the flowers are brimming and abloom, suffused with striking, rich colour.  The floral arrangements have a staged quality as they are juxtaposed against stark black, grey or white backgrounds.  Furthermore the bouquets appear zoomed in, as some flowers are cut off by the edge of the canvas, and only the lips or tops of vases seen.  This contrasts 17th Century Dutch still lifes, which Wolfe clearly draws reference from, where usually the whole vase and table they sit upon are depicted.  With a magnified, close up setting, the flowers and all their headiness are almost within our grasp – I nearly expect their perfume to waft into our presence.

Highly photorealistic, certain flowers in the foreground are painted with crisp edges on petals and distinct stamens; Wolfe contrasts this sharpness with areas of haziness in other sections of the bouquet.  This adds to the illusion of depth in the shallow pictorial space.  It has been noted that Wolfe is influenced by German painter Gerhard Richter and his photopaintings, where he replicated a photographic image in paint, including the camera’s ‘blur’ effect.[1]  I find that my eye is easily drawn into her works by their photographic detail and clarity, and once there, it is captured by the luscious viscosity of paint, and the artist’s virtuosity in the medium. Wolfe’s paintings toy with what is real and illusory, raising questions of verisimilitude in art.

Each of the artworks in this exhibition have titles that relate to ‘savage beauty’: Reckless, Dishevelled, Rustic and so on.   Though I wouldn’t say that these images are particularly savage or unkempt, they are wildly abundant and bountiful floral arrangements, full of vigour and life.  Most of Wolfe’s oeuvre has consisted of large oil on canvas works, but here she has also included five new and smaller works, Spring in London I-V which are gouache on paper.  Inspired by her time in London earlier this year, these bouquets are more typical of an English garden, as there are notably no orchids or other exotic flora, that have appeared in the other artworks, in these arrangements.  Moreover, they are much finer and delicately painted images, yet still have her signature bold colour and sensuousness.

Displayed simply against white walls where Wolfe’s works can do the talking, personal favourites are Tangle (oil on canvas, 1500 x 1600 mm), Primeval (oil on canvas, 1150 x 1550 mm) and Spring in London IV (gouache on paper, 380 x 510 mm).  Sumptuous and magnificent, I like the sense of compositional balance in each of them.  This is especially seen in Primeval where the two halves of the painting almost mirror each other when divided down the middle.  Pamela Wolfe’s paintings are passionate celebrations of the beauty of flowers and nature.

Savage Beauty is on until Sunday 1st November 2015 at Artis Gallery, Parnell.

For more information on the exhibition, please follow the link:

Wolfe is also a successful book illustrator, and along with her husband Richard, published one of my favourite children’s books Midnight at the Museum (1997).  I think it’s now out of print, but you can still find it in the library 😀

I hope you had a chance to check out many of the other exhibitions and events during Artweek Auckland!

Until next time 🙂


[1] ‘Pamela Wolfe Nature Study,’ Artis Gallery,


Fatu Feu’u –The Village

What a gloriously sunny weekend we are having.  Summer is almost here!  I recently dropped into the first gallery I wrote about nearly two years ago when I started this blog, and I know I say it often but time really does fly by 🙂  As the art world is forever on the go, the Warwick Henderson Gallery has hopped over a neighbourhood and relocated to Newmarket.

Currently on display are paintings by the well-known and prominent contemporary artist, Fatu Feu’u.  This exhibition is called The Village, and each painting draws thematically on this, with titles such as Kumara Patch (2015) and Le Lagoon (2015).  Feu’u regularly journeys back to his village of Poutasi, Samoa, and he is regarded as a leader and elder in society.  These works emphasise the importance of family, community and culture, particularly in the wake of the 2009 tsunami.

Even with the knowledge that these were new works by Feu’u, I still found his paintings surprising and unexpected.  They were far more abstract than I anticipated; the motifs I most associate with Feu’u’s oeuvre, such as the frangipani and tribal mask, have been replaced with sketchy, energetic images drawn from ancient Lapita pottery and other prehistoric Pacific sources.

Incredibly gestural and intensely coloured with an earthy palette, the focus appears to be on mark making – the art of suggesting forms with a myriad of strokes and splashes from a paintbrush.  Somewhat resembling cave drawings as well as the paper cut out works by Henri Matisse, these paintings exhibit a sense of joie de vivre and togetherness, which is particularly demonstrated by the bopping figures in Lolita Come Play (2015) and Lolita Come Dance (2015).  The loose, almost instinctive brushwork adds to this impression of movement, as if they are abuzz with activity.

With the repetition of patterns throughout The Village, this series can be read in its entirety.  Each painting is like a cornerstone of a village, individually accentuating their significance to the community and culture as a whole.  That is at the heart of Feu’u’s paintings, and though some viewers may not find these as immediately iconic as his earlier works, the message is still essential and needing to be articulated.  Continuously evolving, I am excited to see where this direction will lead Fatu Feu’u next.

Fatu Feu’u –The Village is on until Sunday 11th October 2015 at Warwick Henderson Gallery, Newmarket.

For further info on the exhibition, please see the website:

And a great resource is Cultural Icons, where you can hear Fatu Feu’u discuss his life and work in episode #74:

Until next time!



Flock west by Niki Hastings-McFall


I hope you are all surviving winter – it’s been mighty chilly in Auckland these last few months, though definitely not as cold as other parts of the country 😛

It’s always exciting when you come across an installation where the respective pieces meld together synergistically, to create a remarkable and stimulating work.  Flock west by West Auckland artist and ornithophile Niki Hastings-McFall, is an enlivening exhibition.  When wandering through Gallery 1 at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, the sights and sounds could be mistaken for the glorious outdoors.

The installation features simplified birds made from radiantly coloured acrylic, which are suspended from the gallery ceiling at varying heights.  A little natural light streams in from the windows producing tinged shadows that play on the walls.  The effect resembles the canopy of a forest: this is further enhanced by a recording of bird sounds that echoes through the space, and by a fan which delicately generates a breeze causing the birds to twirl.  Together these elements create the sense of a living breathing forest, a beautifully animated environment.  There is something delightfully serene about Hastings-McFall’s work, and I feel like I can breathe easily as I soak it all in – not unlike a good trek outdoors through our enviable native bush.

The choice of birds is significant on both personal and broader levels, as Hastings-McFall is an avid bird rescuer, her home acts as an avian refuge, and they appear in almost all cultures, such as the piwakawaka (fantail) in Maori mythology or the phoenix in Chinese lore.  Hence, they are creatures that all New Zealanders can identify with, a commonality across the multitude of cultures that make up our great country.  When discussing her fascination with birds in an interview with the NZ Herald earlier this year, she stated that ‘birds are in every culture’s fables or vernacular sayings, they’re the connection between the earth-bound and the heavenly.’[1]

Drawing upon bird shaped amulets and carved forms within the Pacific collection at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and H.D. Skinner’s Journal of the Polynesian Society,[2] Hastings-McFall has looked to pre-colonial sources for inspiration, again examining her own Samoan and European heritage.  She often reflects on cross-cultural exchanges in the materials she utilises, and in this instance she has modelled traditional items with a modern synthetic polymer.  So much of our identity is bound up with materials and objects, and by altering the materials, Hastings-McFall brings the sense of self into question.

Furthermore, as much of who we are relates to where we are born and raised, Flock west is also a response to the rapidly changing landscape.  Auckland in particular, is experiencing housing problems and increasing traffic congestion, which may lead to a greater number of highrise apartments in the suburbs and less space for habitats.  Through using creatures such as birds which all New Zealanders can identify with, Hastings-McFall emphasises what can be lost.  Let’s hope the calls of our native birds never becomes a rarity.  A tranquil, insightful exhibition, not to be missed.

Flock west is exhibiting at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson until Sunday 6th September 2015.  Public programmes include:

  • An artists’ floor talk on Saturday 29th August, 11am where Hastings-McFall will discuss her works along with fellow exhibitors Leon van de Eijkel and Jeff Thomson.
  • Saturday Gallery Club #7 (free for families with kids aged 4 +) on Saturday 8th August 10:30am-12pm, where they can make hand cut stickers of bird shapes out of reflective vinyl.

For more info on the exhibition and Hastings-McFall’s art, please click on the links to Corban Estate and Whitespace:

Some other great links are the Twelve Questions article in the NZ Herald and a Radio NZ clip from earlier this year:


[1] Ana Samways, ‘Twelve Questions: Niki Hastings-McFall,’ New Zealand Herald, January 29, 2015.

[2] Niki Hastings-McFall, Flock exhibition statement, Whitespace Contemporary Art, 2015, quoted in Kathryn Tsui, Flock west exhibition statement, Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2015.


Liz Maw: The Age of the Multiverse

Liz Maw does some of the most alluring and otherworldly contemporary portraits out there.  Intricately detailed, it is easy to marvel at their sheer size and her exquisite brushwork.  Maw contrasts her highly realistic style with fantastical subject matter, and she imbues her work with a sort of outré magnetism, for a lack of a better term 😛

Her latest exhibition The Age of the Multiverse concludes today at Ivan Anthony Gallery near the corner of East St and K’Rd.  I managed to just catch it, and though I do like to allow readers the opportunity to visit works themselves, time was not on my side.  I still wanted to write about the exhibition as I was quite taken by it, and was thinking about the works for some time afterwards.

The Age of the Multiverse features two large portraits and a smaller landscape.  The landscape is pastoral and picturesque, with rose pinks repeated in the sky and in the trees, but personally I found the portraits to be of greater fascination.

The first work you encounter is Dark Lord x 2 (2015, oil on board) which is about 2 metres high and features a solemn male figure in a jewelled doublet.  The jewels dazzle brilliantly, as if catching the light, and the buttons are exceptionally adorned with what I think are ships and dragons.  He is exhaustively modelled and Maw has surprisingly juxtaposed him with a shadowy female figure, depicted with almost Édouard Manet levels of flatness and in a simplistic style similar to Japanese manga.

Maw engages with the rich history of portraiture in art, and this image is reminiscent of the royal portraits painted by the likes of Hans Holbein, Diego Velázquez, Anthony van Dyck and more.  These images were often symbols of power, used to assert authority.  However, unlike those portraits, the male figure averts his gaze, somewhat diminishing his power.  When considering the power of the gaze in art and how the objects being gazed at were usually women, the male figure’s passivity did bring to mind Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975).  Yet like all art, this work should not solely be seen through one lens but through a scope of thought.  Amongst all the ideas I had about this image, my sense of wonder was definitely struck by the unusual composition and minutiae, and simply the question of what is going on in this work?  I think part of the fun is in the not knowing 😀

In contrast to the Dark Lord’s downward gaze, blonde bombshell Charlotte fixes her bewitching stare upon you.  Titled Charlotte from the South (2015, oil on board) it is another relatively large work at about 1.5 x 1.5 metres.  Featuring what initially seems to be a simple image of a woman standing outdoors in a fur coat on a miserable day, it is also strikingly detailed.  Her luscious thick curls seem to shimmer and shine, and Maw has even painted her individual eyelashes.  The entire image is covered in drizzly rain, which doesn’t seem to dampen her hair or coat, and the light refracts the rain drops transforming them into twinkling diamond shapes.  Just beautiful.

With the rapid growth of celebrity culture due to advancements in mass and social media, celebrities have been elevated to the status of icons, and painted in a way that is on par to that of religious icons.  A number of Maw’s mesmerising portraits elicit such reflections and questioning of contemporary society, as does Charlotte from the South.  She is depicted as an ethereal winter temptress yet bears a slight sardonic smirk, like she is on a secret, aware of her 15 minutes of fame and the fleeting nature of beauty and stardom.

To view the Dark Lord and Charlotte, please click on the link:

And to see images of Maw’s other work, visit her website:

Maw also gave a wonderfully funny and honest interview for The Vernacularist Special Edition: Wāhine – Women published by the Depot Artspace, which celebrates the work, lives and thoughts of women in Aotearoa, New Zealand, specifically those involved in unique cultural, social, scientific and creative processes.

To view some of the pages and order a copy, please see below:

Thanks for reading, and I’ll try to be more onto it next time 🙂



Medieval Moderns: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

I have long been enraptured with Pre-Raphaelite art: the high key jewel like colours, aesthetically lush scenes rendered in minute detail, and references to literature and mythology.  Dare I say that it is my favourite art movement?  It’s definitely in my top 10.  Okay, maybe my top 5.  Better not laminate that list 😛

When I heard about Medieval Moderns: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, I couldn’t wait to skip across the pond to see some works by my fave lads – Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Millais, et al.  The exhibition showcases the gallery’s extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art which includes paintings, drawings, stained glass, textiles and photographs, indicative of how they were not only artists but craftsmen.

Established in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelites drew their name from their influence: 15th Century artists working prior to Raphael (1483 – 1520) the great master, revered by the Royal Academy of Art.  Reacting against the Academy and the rapid industrialisation of the Victorian era, they sought simplicity, moral and social reform through art, and ‘truth to nature’.  The title of this exhibition highlights that whilst they drew on the stylistic characteristics of the medieval age, they were thoroughly modern through their utilisation of photography as a medium, and their desire to overturn the current establishment.

The artworks exhibited in Medieval Moderns are embellished by sumptuously coloured walls – carmine red and teal blue.  In one room, the walls are completely covered in a grape and vine wallpaper designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist, and later founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris.  The archways into each room are also pointed like Gothic cathedral spires and add to the medieval feel of the space.

There are a number of glorious works to see.  A particular highlight was Paolo and Francesca da Rimini (1867, gouache, watercolour and gum over black chalk with sponging on 2 sheets of paper) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  A passionate image, the couple depicted are Francesca da Rimini and her brother-in-law Paolo Malatesta, who appear in the poem, Divine Comedy by Rossetti’s idol Dante Alighieri.  The roses at their feet are symbolic of love, whilst the book they were reading, which is about to fall from Paolo’s lap, details the love affair between Queen Guinevere and Lancelot du Lac – a foreshadowing tale to this scene.  What I find to be greatly fascinating about the Pre-Raphaelites is that the skill and craft doesn’t stop at the edge of the canvas or paper: the frames are specifically designed, they are extensions of the works, and executed in marvellous detail.

Another highlight was Edward Burne-Jones’ Wheel of Fortune (1871–85, oil on canvas).  Burne-Jones was a later Pre-Raphaelite artist, and the defined musculature and Michelangelesque modelling is more Classical than medieval.  Yet the theme of lady Justice turning her unbiased and inescapable wheel of a prisoner, a king and a poet has appeared on a number of occasions in medieval literature.  It was one of significant interest for Burne-Jones, and he would return to it often in his oeuvre.  He was a self-taught artist, which I find astounding, as some of my favourite images such as Laus Veneris (1873–78) and The Legend of Briar Rose (1885–1890) are exquisite displays of technique.

Burne-Jones also did a fantastic stained glass window titled St Paul from the Chapel of Cheadle Royal Hospital, Manchester (1892 designed, 1911 manufactured, stained glass and lead).  William Morris had formed a decorative arts manufacturing firm in 1861, initially called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, before becoming Morris & Co in 1875.  As mentioned, the Pre-Raphaelites interests included crafts and stained glass, and this work is very medieval inspired with the distinct halo and decorative detail.  This window is amazingly lit from the behind, and just radiates beauty.

Do also check out Ford Madox Brown’s The Baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria (1879–91, cartoon: pastel, coloured chalks and grey wash) simply for its intense horizontality, and basically any photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Well worth the skip over the pond, Medieval Moderns is at National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne until the 12th July 2015.  It is free entry and the gallery is open every day except Tuesdays.

Please see the link below for more info: