Review

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:

http://artisgallery.co.nz/exhibitions/savage-beauty/

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 🙂

M.


[1] ‘Pamela Wolfe Nature Study,’ Artis Gallery, http://artisgallery.co.nz/exhibitions/nature-study/

Standard
Musings on Art

Through the Revolving Door

It is that time of the year again: Artweek Auckland!  And, I got on one of the collection tours!  I missed out last year as they book up fast, but I was determined this time around, and had my game face on.  I chose the Chapman Tripp and ANZ Centre tour, as the collection contains a number of impressive artworks by fantastic artists.

The artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer were selected by Paul Baragwanath, director of ARTTFORM, in consultation with architects Warren and Mahoney (WaM), Precinct Properties and ANZ Bank.  Each work was commissioned, and there is an overarching theme of the natural world and drawing the outdoors in.

Working in an anti-clockwise fashion from the main revolving door that opens onto Albert St, is the first of many stunners.  Placed near the escalators on the far right of the building, Birds and Boats (2013) by Neil Dawson features intricate sailboats constructed from painted steel.  The abstracted pattern could also resemble the wings of birds and swelling waves.  The burnished metal catches and throws light, of which this building has an abundance of, and further highlights the complexity and detail of Dawson’s sculpture.  When viewed from the main doors, the eye is drawn to the contrasting geometry of the spherical shape of his work which is framed by the square gap in the inner wall.

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Neil Dawson, Birds and Boats (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Moving up the escalator from Dawson’s artwork and behind the concierge’s desk, is an inescapable work titled Orangery (2013, vinyl installation on glass, 400 x 1600 m) by Sara Hughes.  This captivating installation consists of pale hued vinyl affixed on both sides of the glass, with slashes of green that look like blades of fresh grass.  Cut into the shape of leaves, the layering of the vinyl is reminiscent of fallen foliage.  Hughes’ work needed to be transparent to allow light into the foyer, and in a way it acts like a curtain to allow the ivy on the wall behind to grow.  I think it generates great interest – it makes you want to find a gap and peer through it, or examine the differing colour combinations created from the vinyl overlapping.  At certain times of the day, the leaves multiply as the vinyl casts shadows on the marble floor.

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Orangery (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

It is pretty hard to ignore Winston Roeth’s work.  In a Silent Way (2012, Kremer pigments with polyurethane dispersion, cellulose and water on aluminium core board panels, 4565 x 4264 mm) comprises of 12 panels, each with a distinct hum.  American artist Roeth created all the colours himself, and they can be difficult to characterise.  At different times of the day and with light streaming from various origins, the oscillations in the colours are fascinating and mercurial.  The gold borders on each are also of slightly differing shades: the gold on the top left orange panel and the far right purple seemed more bronzed, whilst it looked more silvery around the pale blue panel in the top row (at the particular time I was looking at them).  Roeth’s artwork is compelling to observe, and can be seen from many angles around the foyer, thus was designed without a singular focal point.

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Winston Roeth, In a Silent Way (2012). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Circling around to the back left of the foyer is another Sara Hughes.  I have long been a fan of Hughes’ work and was delighted to find not one, but two of her commissions here.  Placed in a narrow, historic corridor is Wintergarden (2014, LED light and Plexiglas) an exquisite installation inspired by pendulous wisteria and other flora, like those seen in Auckland’s Wintergarden.  Each leaf/blade has an LED light which diffuses down and then along the length of the leaf/blade.  The subtle modulations in colour and light are computer powered, and the leaves/blades vacillate along the colour spectrum through blues, greens, purples, yellows and pinks.  With its low ceiling this work has a graceful, elegant magic, not unlike twinkling stars or a wind rustling through leaves.  As modifications could not be made to the corridor and wary that it would see its fair share of foot traffic, Hughes’ artwork responds to and invigorates the space.

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Sara Hughes, Wintergarden (2014). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Passing through the corridor you encounter Piki Ake_Rise Up by Peata Larkin (2013, acrylic on gauze weave on lightbox, 2400 x 3700 x 90 mm).  Positioned opposite the elevators that lead down to the carpark, her work acts as a welcome; a bright reception for those arriving from the basement.  Larkin’s process is engrossing: the surface of the weave is painted white and then sensational baubles of paint are pushed through the back, before it is mounted on an LED lightbox.  With its ziggurat design, the artwork has a glittery Art Deco vibe.  Larkin draws from her Māori heritage, as the design resembles the poutama (stepped/stairway to heaven) tukutuku panelling pattern.  The use of blue and white makes this work seem heavenly and transcendental, and it is extraordinary to view up close and at a distance, during the day and at night.  You can read more about Peata Larkin in a previous post I wrote.

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close Up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

Peata Larkin, Piki Ake_Rise Up (2013) (Close up). Photo Credit: Raven about Art

This post focussed on the artworks in the ANZ Centre foyer as they are easily accessible, yet if you are ever in the Chapman Tripp offices do take a look at their collection of objects.  All relate to the theme of sustainability and some to look out for are:

  • Sriwhana Sprong’s coke bottles, Givenchy perfume bottles, cow bells and matches, made from lac that will melt if left in the sun. Completely pitch black with a lustrous sheen, each item is delicately rendered and engages with the senses.  Sprong’s work points to the influence of consumerism and the throwaway culture that has arisen.
  • A paint tube made from greywacke by Joe Sheehan. The invention of the paint tube was a catalyst in the practice of painting, allowing the Impressionists to venture outside (en plein air) to capture scenes and changing light in the moment.  The weight of the tube could be likened to its importance in the history of art making, and that it cannot be so easily disposed of, as it is a solid rock that is common to New Zealand.
  • An axe with flowers growing out the handle by Peter Madden. Utilising old National Geographic magazines, Madden cuts up the images and pages to create this work.  There are themes of creation, destruction, rejuvenation and recycling with Madden’s art, and there is an interesting dynamic when you think of how axes are used to fell something yet here they have sprouted life.
  • Each of Janet Green’s ceramic goblets features a skull in relief, to serve as a reminder about mortality – a humorous placement for lawyers’ offices. The goblets have a delightful matte texture, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the search for the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).  Likely my fave out of the four films, probably due to Sean Connery 🙂

I hope you all got out and about to see some of the amazing things on offer during Artweek!

For more info on Artweek Auckland please see:

http://artweekauckland.co.nz/

M.

Standard