Wide Island: Paintings of Central Otago
Milford Galleries, Dunedin, November 2004
Running concurrent with this exhibition, at the other end of the country at the Whangarei Art Museum, is another show of recent work, but in the medium of photography. I mention this because although vastly different not only in medium, the imagery in that collection, depicts a few hours of nature’s violent intrusion into man’s world, when 60 foot waves washed away a whole suburb on Niue’s West coast. Conversely, in this exhibition the intrusion is mankind’s into the natural environment albeit sometimes subtle and often harmonious.
But this interface between man and nature is at the core of all my work whether it is Painting, photography or sculpture. The beginnings of these ideas begun in the mid 80’s when I often used roads and man’s track markings as a measure of his intrusion upon nature.
I say that the evidence of intrusion in these paintings is subtle, but the degree to which it is, varies from painting to painting. In the painting Sheep Ruts above Becks and others, the intrusion is understated and by association only. The only marks of man on the landscaped are from his sheep. At the other end of the spectrum of man’s influence on shaping the landscape here is Ara Over Tor where not only the road dominates but also man’s engineering has created runoff guttering which for me turned into a delightful compositional tool. The painting Idaburn is almost Constablesque in its sunny green, blue and yellow disposition. However the cottages, waterwheels and oxen-carts have been replaced by the introduced river willows and gorse as well as the dredgings, dug out and mounded to ease the flow of the burn.
Except for the botanical introductions, the method of man’s molding of the world in these paintings are where he has moved the soil and rock himself or has allowed his best friend the sheep to do it for him in their so wonderfully random and ignorantly cooperative way.
But is man’s influence here that subtle? One can only guess what the Central Otago landscape looked like when the great Moa was king.
Liku, September 04