A move to unfamiliar waters

Flock & Scroll, Kathryn Furniss, Candy Clarke, Red Gallery

GAIL TRESIDDER
Last updated 14:46 11/12/2013
Visit’s End
FLORA AND FAUNA: Visit’s End by Kathryn Furniss.

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Arts reviews

Residency pays dividends Time taken is well spent Difficult conversations laid bare Dramatic work by serious artist A move to unfamiliar waters Kiwi scenes conjure sense of adventure Exhibition sparks, but doesn't catch fire Nice, new, but where's the young blood? Intelligent engagement with audience Doors open to creative minds

Is a work of art abstract, semi-abstract, romantic, diagrammatic or purely decorative? Does it matter anyway, and what does it have to say?

Kathryn Furniss' acrylic painting Visit's End sparked this conversation between five strangers. The discussion was fervent and enjoyable - a reminder that although we see the same picture, as individuals we see different meanings. Yet we still meet through art - and how wonderful that is.

Visit's End is deceptively complex and like all Furniss' paintings in this exhibition, it warrants more than just a swift cruise by.

The artist highlights native flora and fauna, an excellent example of this being Aotearoa Charm Necklace with its 3D effect.

For Furniss, upright paddles mean grounded and safe; horizontal paddles and wakas in her work imply journeying and arriving, literally and emotionally.

Her Huia Cross provides a safe perch for the blunt-beaked male huias. Wishful thinking - we lost them all. There they are, shadowy ghosts on a blood-red background behind their beautiful curved beaks.

Not only is this picture touching, it is gracefully and sensitively painted.

Candy Clarke appears to have moved on from her clever, amusing pastiches of McCahon, Gauguin and Frizzell and her sly depictions of consumer products such as pies and soup tins. Patiently executed on Perspex, her chosen medium, Clarke's art practice has refined to the point where she is producing elegant lines and increasingly muted tones - and much of this recent work is definitely abstract.

She explains her technique as layering the paint on in what would be reverse order to conventional painting; also scratching into the paint and back-filling the etched scratches.

I was underwhelmed with some of these new pieces, finding them somewhat cerebral, perhaps even still at the experimental stage; however, two paintings are outstanding.

Centrepiece, with its precise patterns of silver and black, is strong and powerful and Blue Garden, with its amazing detail of flowers and foliage, is both intricate and dreamy.

For those that are attached to Clarke's earlier style, there is Summer Ball, a joyful little circular piece and Dawn Chorus - Spring. They both feature marvellous colours and with the latter, one can almost hear the birds singing. It is lovely.

  • Flock & Scroll, Kathryn Furniss, Candy Clarke, Red Gallery to December 18.

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