Described as one of New Zealand's "most internationally prominent and successful artists" Max Gimblett, who has lived in New York since 1972, is returning to New Zealand for the opening of a major survey show of his work at Auckland Art Gallery next week. A publication on his work is also being launched by the gallery. This exhibition will travel to City Gallery Wellington in December.
Max Gimblett’s art is timeless. Born out of 20th century abstract expressionism and early modernist concerns to express the spiritual in art, it is also inflected by the artist’s interest in Asian art and religion.
His paintings, which are at once seductive and austere, move from flat matte canvases to gilded and luminescent surfaces. They break out of the conventional rectangular frame with many employing circular, oval or the Gimblett trademark quatrefoil support. Shape, surface, gesture, light and a rich range of materials [from traditional oil and acrylic to gold leaf and gesso, pearlescent pigments, polyurethane, silver and silica] come together to create objects that do not so much "communicate as induce an attitude of communion and contemplation". (Donald Kuspit, in ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Contemporary Art’, 1986)
Gimblett’s paintings embrace ‘gesture’ which in addition to the mark of the brush, and Gimblett’s distinctive calligraphic stroke, can be interpreted to include other actions of the artist’s hand including the pouring, pooling and throwing of paint. Many of the paintings are also about layering – a layering that in some paintings reveals itself with levels of transparent planes and in some paintings is opaque and merely suggestive of hidden layers and under-painting.
Drawing is also a very important part of the artist’s oeuvre and closely linked to the painting. Gimblett has said "the drawings let the paintings happen". (Interview with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 2003.)
Writer Wystan Curnow has described the drawings as slipping "between the figurative and the non-figurative, the calligraphic and the ‘automatic’, dream and daylight reality". The drawings are often produced very quickly with the artist’s eye and arm interacting in a performative action.
As the titles and the hybrid references in the work suggest, this is not work to be experienced or read on a purely formal level. Meaning is suggested but as the artist himself as said: "it’s a meaning that cannot be read directly, like writing". (2003 Interview)
gesso, polyurethene, acrylic and vinyl polymers, canvas
40” / 1015 mm diameter