Heavenly creatures populate Mark Braunias' Anti Groovy exhibition

Mark Braunias' installation Anti Groovy is on show at Jonathan Smart Gallery.

Mark Braunias' installation Anti Groovy is on show at Jonathan Smart Gallery.

Four years ago New Zealand artist Mark Braunias spent a lot of time cycling over the Golden Gatge Bridge in San Francisco, contemplating other worlds.

The result forms the basis of his exhibition Anti Groovy, a play on the phrase "anti gravity" he explains for which Braunias travelled to Christchurch and spent a week painting creatures and mysterious forms directly and freely onto the walls of Jonathan Smart's Sydenham gallery.

"I particularly enjoyed the area out the back where I painted directly on the wall. I called that my cave," Tauranga-born Braunias says. "I entered the cave where the forms grew and morphed out of that space around the walls. I had no drawings or anything, they all came from my head. They were trying to free themselves of their rectangle or square forms, they couldn't quite get out but they had a good go."

Key to unlocking the full experience of the exhibition is a limited edition book, Encyclo Dimensional. Just 100 copies exist of the drawing book by Braunias in collaboration with Aaron Beehre and published by Ilam Press.

"No two books are alike," Braunias says. "For the book I have done tens of thousands of drawings, that's why it's been several years worth of work."

In 2015 Braunias published a limited edition (100) drawing book titled "Encyclo - Dimensional". The writings and drawings in the book, titled Encyclo - Dimensional are the culmination of a project from his time as an artist in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco during 2011.

He travelled there to undertake his artist in residence role after winning a Fulbright Scholarship in 2010. Each day he cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge to Headlands, created an alternate universe on paper and then cycled home again.

"It has been a slow burner... the show is a culmination of all of that. The project I did at Headlands was called Encyclo Dimensional, it was something to do with the power of another dimension. I tried to write a skewed, ironic and quirky take on a parallel universe."

His initial drawings came from looking at the universe in this "skewed" way he says and a lot of drawings in the book originated while he was in the United States.

"Since I was there in 2011 I've developed them a great deal."

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The scholarship was for a work he did in 2009 which used the periodic table but "messed up" atomic structures.

"This time I took encyclopaedias and imagined the universe using string theory with many other universes attached to this universe beyond us and galaxies - which is fantasy - but a lot of us artists like fantasy so I played along with that."

Although Braunias' painterly mind is concerned with string theory and the contemplation of other lifeforms and realms, there is certainly elements of satire in Anti Groovy.

"Yes, I like to think there are some layers to it. Trying to get to some kind of profound truth even if they are a bit odd."

Based in the small coastal village of Kawhia, in the North Island's King Country, why does Braunias chose to exhibit in Christchurch?

He studied at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1987. His first solo show was held at Jonathan Smart Gallery (then known as the Jonathan Jensen Gallery) in 1988.

Braunias was the inaugural winner of the Wallace Art Award in 1992, and from 1993 to 2013 he tutored at the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland.

His work is held in major public, corporate and private collections in New Zealand and overseas - this year, for example, he has exhibited at Art Central Hong Kong.

"Jonathan and I have been together for more than 25 years, that's how he describes it," Braunias says. "Every two or three years I'm back at his place, climbing the walls, coaxing something out."



Anti-Groovy, paintings by Mark Braunias, is at Jonathan Smart Gallery to May 30. Open Wed-Fri 11am-5pm; Sat 11am-3pm, 52 Buchan St, Sydenham. Ph 365th7070. See jonathan@jonathansmartgallery.com

 - The Press

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