Contemporary art on show

The Spring exhibition of the Suter Art Society, to November 11. Reviewed by Peter Gibbs.

Arts society exhibitions are a chance to take the pulse of the region's arts - to find out who's influencing who, to consider what's art, what's craft and what's clever.

At first, I like to walk through quickly, not pausing to analyse, trying to find an instant spark.

In that first walk through I'm not interested in technique, just seeking works that stop me in my tracks.

From the foyer, I could see spidery works that seemed to be made of glass. What a good trick - up close they were intricately formed assemblages of cable ties.

Guest exhibitor Andi Regan demonstrates great craft and great cleverness.

The skill and dexterity pushed questions of technique into the background, but didn't tick the art box, because I couldn't find any emotional challenge or sense of wonder.

Her fellow guest exhibitor, Catherine Manchester, is dextrous with paint, conveying a sense of movement that's arresting.

Possibly my favourite painting was Chris Barkway's Choir Practice.

Who are these people? When did they live? What are they singing? What's the story?

An old favourite is Wanda Tait, who constantly revisits the hill viewed from her kitchen in Collingwood St.

The hill featured again in this exhibition, but I was stopped in my tracks by another of her abstract paintings, Big Sea.

Margaret Johnston pays homage in After Matisse, a briskly painted work with earthy colours that seem to evoke a feeling for Polynesia.

The abstract work of Inez Kolff takes time to digest.

I imagine you could have it on your wall for years and still be wondering what it means - pondering the meaning of small details.

In similar vein, Coastal Surge by Paul Smith is a direct gestural abstract that brings movement to elements, which evoke the sky and the crash of the sea breaking across barriers.

Deborah Holloway's luminous The Virgin of the Rocks After Leonardo da Vinci kept drawing me back. Offset in the frame, the portrait gains much of its impact from its simplicity.

Luke Dell's Prayer Bird 2 was edgy and sharp - a bird's skull protected by spikes set in a recessed cross. It's a dark, striking image that sparks curiosity, but doesn't satisfy it.

For pure craft, it was good to see the simple forms in a traditional celadon glaze by Nancy Malcolm.

At the other end of the craft spectrum, in the clever but curious, "why would you do that" category were the flamingos, ducks and other forms made from doilies by Sandra Mead.

Throughout the gallery were exhibits that were of strong, professional quality. Although there's no room to describe them here, any of another dozen artists could hang alone in a solo exhibition, including Ann CT Braunsteiner, John Caldwell, Lisa Chandler, Peter Copp, Harry Day, Barry Driver, Barbara Franklet, William Hunt, Jean Jackson, Cathy Jones, Royce McGlashen, Lynette Quinney Graham, David Stones and Ross Whitlock.

All in all, it is an exhibition to spend time in and ponder.