The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery presents MAKEOVER: paintings by seven Pacific Rim artists, an exhibition which brings together the work of seven artists who are rethinking stylistic approaches to painting. MAKEOVER presents work by: Dave Deany (USA), Kim Fisher (USA), Diena Georgetti (AUS), Michael Harrison (NZ), Peter McDonald (JAP), John Spiteri (AUS), and Isobel Thom (NZ). Gallery Director and curator of Makeover, Greg Burke comments: “This is an exhibition about painting today, featuring artists whose work moves between genres and makes over art-historical and pop-cultural visual languages”.
The artists in MAKEOVER display an awareness of the history of painting and the self consciousness that Modernism delivered to all art making, yet this is no longer the loaded device it once was. The strict adherence to oppositional positions within painting, such as abstraction and representation, as demarcated by Modernism is no longer necessary. Their works hold references to Romanticism, Cubism, Surrealism and Abstraction as well as to cinema and the legacy of Conceptual Art and installation practices. There is also a presence of illustration, animation, fashion and consumer culture.
The interests and approaches of these artists are diverse, yet they share a sensibility that responds to a contemporary condition of painting. The artists paint using traditional methods, meaning for example that they don’t hire others to make their paintings or generate digital images. They also return to former periods in the history of painting yet with the knowledge of recent developments in visual culture. Such aspects give their work a period feel and yet a curious vitality.
There are no obvious radical gestures on the part of the artists and they seem to avoid the perennial debates over the continuing relevance of painting. However, in ignoring the argument they seem to effortlessly rejuvenate the act of painting.
Like most of the artists in the exhibition Diena Georgetti’s work reveals a tension between abstraction and representation. Her works blend the figurative and the abstract creating a space that is made up of flat planes and fragments of colour which suggest figures and objects. The paintings combine stylistic aspects of Abstraction, Cubism and Surrealism to create undefined spaces that feel rich in symbolism and allegory.
At first glance abstraction seems to be the basis of Kim Fisher’s painting. However, like the works of Georgetti, Fisher’s work relies on an interplay between abstraction and figuration. Her seeming abstract shapes are frequently drawn from images found in high end fashion and jewellery catalogues. The vibrant colours speak of a luscious and extravagant world, while seemingly also referring to fundamentals of abstract painting such as light and dark and tonal scales.
Dave Deany is a painter and sculptor who is also involved in Los Angeles multi-media musical and entertainment collective, Dude Dogg. Deany’s multiple artistic interests create a light touch which is evident in his works in MAKEOVER. The paintings have a quirky romanticism which is enhanced by Deany’s use of watercolour and ink on paper, their semi-opaque quality allows the works a fluidity and temporality. The predominant use of watercolour and the uncomplicated subject matter cause an unavoidable comparison with the Sunday Painter.
The small scale of many of the works coupled with the predominance of figuration creates a feeling of intimacy which is deepened by the evidently personal symbolism they contain. The work of Michael Harrison comes loaded with symbols which are highly personal and accessible. His work has an intuitive aspect which creates a feeling of intimacy with the viewer. The artist is painting from an inner world of sentimental longing and gentle allegory.
Peter McDonald’s work creates a world of people and places rendered in flat shapes of colour. He reduces the world to its basic shapes giving it a simplicity which it does not have, creating a high colour world of simple optimism. It is an abstraction of humanity with which McDonald proposes a possibility for a utopic world through colour and light.
John Spiteri’s paintings in MAKEOVER have a craft like aspect which is evident in the materials and techniques used such as the areas of unbleached linen canvas left unpainted and the simple shapes and lines of colour contrasted with patterned areas. Spiteri’s figures inhabit landscapes which hover between the abstract and the representational, an ambiguous and careful balancing which helps to load the works with symbolism.
Meanwhile we gain a sense of the cinematic in Isobel Thom’s panoramic paintings of quartz crystals. She covers every angle in a frame by frame filmic progression around the object. Thom’s depiction of quartz crystals provides her with a subject, which in appearance is faceted giving her work qualities of abstraction that is derived from multifaceted viewpoints as played out in Cubism or the paintings of Cezanne.
Burke states: “In presenting MAKEOVER the Govett-Brewster continues to uphold the Gallery’s strategic focus on artists from the Pacific Rim. The exhibition also reflects our policy of bringing new international art to our audiences and providing exhibitions that locate the practice of New Zealand artists alongside their international peers”.
Opening in conjunction with MAKEOVER: Paintings by Seven Pacific Rim artists the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is pleased to present The TSB Collection Show, 14 May – 13 June, featuring works purchased by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with funds donated by the TSB Community Trust to the Govett-Brewster Foundation.
A Chance Lost 2004