The New Zealand Arts Review

Reviews and Commentary by John Daly-Peoples

Enchanted Worlds: Issho, Cherry Blossum Party (1745), Tsukimaro "Five Beauties" (1825), Hiroshige, Great Wave (1847), Buncho, Scene of Echigoya at Suruga (1815)

Enchanted Worlds at the Auckland Art Gallery

Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan

Auckland Art Gallery

Until June 1

Auckland Art Gallery’s Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan features more than 70 art works from Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868).including silk paintings, scrolls, folding screens and woodblock prints.

Included in the exhibition are some of the most popular artists of the period, including Katsushika Hokusai, Andō Hiroshige, Kitagawa Utamaro and Keisai Eisen.

Japanese artists did not approach their work as Western artist of the time did. Perspective, trompe L’oeil and chiaroscuro were avoided with an emphasis more on flat colours, shadowless figures, the outline and costumes with stylised designs.

Most of the works in the exhibition are described as Ukiyo-e or pictures of the floating world a genre which flourished from the 17th through to the 19th century. The subject of these prints and paintings were female beauties; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna. One notable popular subject area, that of erotica is not included in the exhibition.

This art of the Floating World was intended to depict the new cosmopolitan Japan, a world of play and entertainment in the three main cities of (Edo [Tokyo], Osaka, and Kyoto). It was also thought of as a state of mind or a characteristic spirit of the sophisticated town dwellers The participants focused particularly upon the pleasure quarters and entertainment districts. These areas of play were a ritualized milieu offering escape for the increasingly powerful merchant class.

In many ways some of these works parallel the work of the Dutch Baroque painters of the same period who also painted and were commissioned to paint scenes of urban life. The large “Banquet with Music in the former Yoshiwara” shows the artist depicting a range of activities, courtesans and visitors to the temple and gardens .

Works like this take a complex approach to the creation of space and the depiction of individuals and objects. In many cases they are similar to European works of the Trecento but in other ways they are more sophisticated in the levels of abstraction, refined use of colour and stylisation.

There are interesting works which show other aspects of contemporary urban social life as with Chounsai Eishi’s “Women resting in the Votive Picture Hall of Asakusa” where the artist has provided portraits of individuals who have a more naturalistic appearance and interaction with each other.

Later works in the collection indicate a Western influence with the depiction of city life seen in Kawaha Keiya’s “Bustling Scenes of City Life”.

A number of works are of individual females as with Kaigetsudo Ando’s “Standing Beauty” or Utamaro’s “Beauty Reading a Letter” These portraits are stylised in the depiction of faces, gestures and costumes.

There are iconic depictions of popular and seasonal landmarks, including paintings of snow-capped Mount Fuji, waterfalls, rivers and blossoming trees. There are paintings where the depictions of animals connect with their use as symbols and the imaginary realms of myth and legend. Among these is Hokusai’s “Moon and Rabbit” where a very Peter Rabbit – like image depicts an ancient Buddhist tale.

The most famous of Japanese prints “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, by Hokusai is not in the exhibition but an equally impressive version by Hiroshige is included.

There are two large contemporary digital artworks which build on and complement the traditional works in the exhibition. One of the by contemporary artist Tabaimo “The Obscuring Moon,” uses an image from an 1857 Hiroshige woodblock print, and populates it with writhing octopus arms, and surreal silhouettes.

The other digital work is by the art collective teamLab is the video “Four season, a 1000 Years Terraced Rice Fields”. It uses the scenery of the Tashibunosho area, a typical rice growing area in which the people and the changes time of days are depicted with littler figures moving across the “wood block” landscape with the light changing as the sun rises and then sets through the day.

The exhibition is a great overview of Japanese art but also interesting to make comparison with Western art and the parallel but separate developments of the time. It is also useful to compare how art is made, what it depicts and to what purpose.

Recent Reviews. (Scroll down)

 

Enchanted Worlds, Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Arts Festival. Snow White & Cold Blood

Auckland Arts Festival, Eight Songs for a Mad King

Black Lover at ATC

Release the Stars. - Looking through Maori artist's eyes

Auckland Philharmonia, Bach & Brahms

Film Review: Parasite

Roger Hall's "Winding Up"

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn, Parallel Reflections

Film Review, La Belle Epoque

John Turner; A Life in Photographs

Grace Bader and the New Cubism

 

Aucland Arts Festival. Snow White and Cold Blood

Auckland Arts Festival. Snow White & Cold Blood

Auckland Arts Festival

Snow White, Ballet Preljocaj

Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre

Within many folk stories are themes of sexuality and violence, the presence of evil and the corruption of the pure of heart. So it is with Snow White where the wicked stepmother is obsessed with the beauty and purity of the young woman.

In Ballet Preljocaj’s stunning dance version of the tale these themes are played out in a dazzling production with an intense physicality, raw passion and an underlying misogyny. Music dance and design are used to create an electrifying and memorable work .

The ballet follows the birth of Snow White, her presentation at court and the wooing by suitors followed by a picaresque wandering where she is assaulted by woodsmen, befriended by the Seven dwarves / Miners, rescued by her Prince and dispatches the stepmother.

But this is a very dark telling of the story which begins with the Queen (Lea De Natale) struggling across the stage, wreathed in ground mist to die giving birth to Snow White.

This dark and menacing opening sets the tone for much of the ballet which contrasts with some of the more whimsical and colourful sequences of the work such as the court scene which not only features lavish dancing but also exotic costumes created by Jean Paul Gaultier.

In the court scene we also meet The Prince danced by Antoine Dubois performing some dramatic moves and then later in the ballet he performs a pas de deux with Snow White deftly handling her limp, lifeless body.

Nuriya Nagimova as the Stepmother is attired in one of the designers more elaborate costumes, a dominatrix outfit of latex bustier, thigh-high high heels, and a voluminous skirt all of which meant there is not much dancing but some elaborate posing.

She was cleverly used in several sequences contemplating a huge magic mirror which allowed her to see her reflection as well as see where Snow White was to be found.

She made for an impressive presence and in one scene where she has ditched the elaborate gear, viciously drags Snow White across the stage forcing a poisoned apple into Snow White’s mouth in an intertwined, menacing dance.

Mirea Delogu dancing the role of Snow White floated through the ballet like an ethereal presence, almost untouched by the events which impact on her. Her dancing was fluid and sinuous and with her Greco Roman virginal costume she was like a minor goddess only just inhabiting the physical world.

One of the highlights was the Seven Dwarves / Miners who perform an elaborate dance, abseiling like spiders on the surface of a wonderful rock face designed Thierry Leproust. His others sets created marvellous backgrounds to the action particularly the forest scene.

There were other beautifully orchestrated sequences such as the scene where the dead queen swooped down on a wire to pick up the dead Snow White, resurrecting her.

There was also some clever animated cavorting by the evil Queen’s two catlike assistants and the appearance of a deer who is slaughtered by the huntsman was a surreal apparition in the midst of the forest.

The dancers manage the inventive choreography of Angelin Preljocaj superbly his mix of classical ballet, court dance and contemporary resulting in a stylish and invigorating display.

While the dancing was superb, at times it was difficult to tell whether it was the dancers or the music which was making the emotional impact. For the most part they were dancing to the symphonic work of Gustav Mahler whose work is angst ridden, expressing both moments of joy as well as despair.

 

 

Cold Blood

Michele Anne De May, Jaco van Dormael, Kiss & Cry Collective

ASB Waterfront Theatre

In the darkened theatre at the beginning of Cold Blood we are told that we are not in a theatre that we are there to dream and the voice counts us down to a state of hypnosis – and so the dreams begin.

These are all seen on the large screen which dominates the stage . Beneath it the group of performers and technicians armed with cameras and a series of miniature sets – rooms, cityscapes motorways create imagined worlds and events.

Cold Blood is a meditation on death, presenting seven specific deaths which range from the comic to the tragic - a man choking on a clip while undoing a bra strap with his teeth, a plane crash, and an astronaut losing consciousness in space.

For each of these deaths we become immersed in the action where fingers provide the action as they take the on the activities of characters,- walking, dancing, pole dancing. In an early sequence disembodied floating hands responding to music, - conducting, swaying and playing instruments.

Some of the sequences are intimate and sensual, the camera tracking over a man’s hand caressing a woman’s body, other are dramatic with the launch of a model space rocket. There is a gruesome blood spattering death in a car wash as well as the brilliant acting (of fingers) with a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers dance display along with a mesmerising Busby Berkley routine to the tune On Moonlight Bay.

At another level Cold Blood is about reality and illusion, about the nature of theatre and the willing suspension of disbelief. We see the action on the screen, but we can also see the actors and camera operators creating that fiction. These actors and technicians are like the black clad Koken in Noh Theatre, organising and manipulating events.

The images we see are captivating and intriguing – the panning across a night time city, a bombing raid and firestorm, a tracking scene through a series of rooms where doors open to reveal new rooms and we realise that each of the model rooms is being replaced by another to give a sense of a long tracking shot.

For just over an hour the audience is transported to another world of perception and then in the closing minutes as we focus on fingers dancing to Ravel’s Bolero the camera turns, focussing on the audience and we see ourselves as part of the imagined world.

Robert Tucker as George III in Eight Songs for a Mad King

Auckland Arts Festival "Eight Songs for a Mad King"

Auckland Arts Festival

Eight Songs for a Mad King by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

NZ Opera Ellen Melville Centre

Until March 19

Eight Songs for a Mad King is an operatic monodrama by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with a libretto by Randolph Stow, based on words of George III.

The work lasts for only half an hour, but this NZ Opera production is performed twice. For half an hour the audience is seated inside the Ellen Melville Centre and for another half hour they sit outside the hall watching from a distance and listening to the performance through headphones.

The original work asked for the king and the players to be contained in large bird cages in a reference to the fact that George III tried to teach some caged bullfinches to sing. In this production the king becomes a CEO at the boardroom table surrounded by his minions (audience members).

The work calls for a baritone with a vocal range of more than five octaves, With Robert Tucker singing the role of the king we heard an extraordinary voice and witnessed a consummate actor. The boardroom table at which he initially sits becomes a catwalk for his performance on which he struts, crawls and dances, while he berates, cajoles and pleads with his audience. He is by turns regal, childish, demented and terrifyingly conscious of his own predicament.

But this King / CEO is also Everymen, dealing with the issues of mental disorder, the fears, the doubts and the terrors.

Tucker not only responded and engaged with the music he also engaged with the musicians themselves, grappling with the flautist and in the final climactic moments seizes the violinist’s instrument and smashes it to pieces on the boardroom table.

When he sings “I am nervous” his voice quivers with a nervous energy and his voice occasionally becomes the howl of a mad dog and it is this howling voice with which he ends the performance.

The eight songs have clever mix of texts, commentaries and descriptions related to the king’s life and there even references to Handel’s Messiah. The music can be challenging but is ultimately engaging and rewarding.

The score which is modernist also includes several other elements of musical style; bits of eighteenth-century music, nautical refrains and a jazzy 1920’s tune.

The music played by the six instrumentalists of the Stroma New Music ensemble conducted by Hamish McKeich provided the strident music which describes the mental torment of the king, the emotional strength of the work coming from the way the singer and musicians combined and clashed

Seeing the performances from two perspectives made the work more accessible and gave the it a greater intensity. Inside the room and up close one was aware of the acting and body language of the singer as well as a being more conscious of the musicians. From outside the experience was more cinematic and voyeuristic.

Experiencing it in the open air there was a background noise of passers-by, people chattering, speaking on their phones. They became an unintended, banal chorus providing a counterpoint to the tragedy unfolding before us.

This is not only an experimental opera it is also an experimental production and shows that the new NZ Opera Artistic Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess is charting a new direction for the company providing contemporary works which are more relevant and engaging.

Cameron Rhodes (Garfield Todd) and Steady (Simbarashe Matshe)

Black Lover at ATC; Humanity and Humour, Inequality and Friendship

Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe

Auckland Theatre Company

Q Theatre

Until April 4

The colonial history of Africa has many parallels to that of New Zealand in relation to land, governance and human rights and a new play, Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe at Q Theatre highlights these aspects and the tragic history of Zimbabwe and the way it evolved. Central to the country’s history and to the play is New Zealander Sir Garfield Todd.

He was born in Invercargill, emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1934 as a missionary and ran a Mission school where one of his pupils was Robert Mugabe. He was a member of the colonial parliament and became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia in 1953 but because of his liberal views was forced out of parliament .

Out of power, he became increasingly critical of white minority rule and was an outspoken opponent of Ian Smith's 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom. Todd applied for an exit visa to lead a teach-in at the University of Edinburgh on the inequities of white rule. The Rhodesian government banned his emigration, placing him under house arrest.

It is at this point that Black Lovers imagines an encounter between Todd (Cameron Rhodes) with his black family cook, Steady (Simbarashe Matshe).

At one point Todd reads from the speech which he was to deliver about the plight of the black population in Rhodesia, a speech his daughter, Judith would be delivering shortly in Edinburgh.

This is one of the few polemical speeches in the play although there is some intense dialogues between the two men including an enraged outburst by Steady about white oppression and savagery.

Much of the time the inequalities between white and black are expressed in simple, personal exchanges and events. There is Steady’s discomfort at being asked to drink tea and eat cake with Todd as an equal, an event which more amusing than political.

The play also touches on the ingrained subservient nature of the relationship between white and black. Even between between Todd and his servant there is an uneasiness to their relationship and the idea of a black having access to cake is seen by Steady as a violation of the codes of apartheid.

Their conversations also touch on the role of women, religion, God and repentance with Steady stating that he knows that the church is “The black man’s death trap”.

Cameron Rhodes captures the character of Todd brilliantly, a man weary and worried, concerned for others rather than himself, wanting Steady to be an equal but never able to bridge the gap.

Matshe as Steady is able to convey the internal conflicts between submitting to the apartheid state and aspiring to a better life and self-determination.

Stanley Makuwe provides conversations ranging from the simple to the raw and emotional in which the political and the personal are threaded together creating a play which is sensitive and revealing of human relationships as well as the dangers of social and political inequality.

The play opens with the mingled sounds of classical music playing on the radio and the sounds of Africa in the air alluding to the mix of the two cultures of European and African. But for much of the play it is the sounds of gunfire and explosions which enclose and threaten the two men.

At just over an hour this is a superbly crafted play, rich and concise in its dialogues, ideas and emotional engagement. It is a play which allows us to reflect on a history which we have known and observed, at distance but now resonates with contemporary relevance.

Nikau Hindin 6.2.1840, Star Gossage Untitled. Installation View- Ayesha Green, Hiria Anderson, Fiona Pardington, PĀNiA!, Russ Flatt

Release the Stars. - Looking through Maori artist's eyes

Release the Stars

Tim Melville Gallery

Until March 7

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Release the Stars” is a Maori group show with eight artists at the Tim Melville gallery. The exhibition’s title comes from a 2007 Rufus Wainwright album inspired – the musician explains – by a wish to start “opening up and following impulses” and by “the fact that it’s time to get out there and be part of the solution”.

Wainwright’s goals resonated Maori gallerist (Te Arawa, Te Atiawa) and his attempts to try and represent a Maori worldview to a predominantly European audience. In speaking about the exhibition

Tim Melville quotes Fiona Pardington, “who are some of the other Maori artists whose work feels Maori but doesn’t always look Maori? Who are some of the others whose practice doesn’t necessarily include the iconography that many understand as signifying ‘authentic’ Maori art? And if you were able to put some of these artists together what might an exhibition look like?”. And so the show was born.

The exhibition features Star Gossage (Ngati Wai, Ngati Ruanui), Russ Flatt (Ngati Kahungunu), Hiria Anderson (Rereahu, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Apakura), Fiona Pardington (Ngati Tahu Kati Mamoe, Ngati Kahungunu), Ayesha Green (Kaai Tahu, Ngati Kahungunu), Brett Graham (Ngati Koroki Kahukura, Tainui), Nikau Hindin (Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa) and the anonymous artist PĀNiA!

The works of Nikau Hindin relate directly to the tile of the exhibition and are part of a long history of art related to cosmology which spans from the realist to the symbolic with such depictions such Egyptian astronomical‐ceilings, the decorative Renaissance star maps and Polynesian navigation schemas.

She works with on paper made from mulberry (aute), using red ochre and soot pigment as colour, reviving traditional methods of working. In Hindin’s work time and the measurement of the heavens come together to create abstract works full of symbolism and hints of mythic narratives.

“6.2.1840 Ta Ra I Waitohungia Te Tiriti o Waitangi”($8000) looks like a scroll where the words are replaced by repeated symbols that look like a scientific printout. Rākau Nui o te Waru o Rehua (11.1.2020, full moon of January) ($2500) has similar markings but the inky black surface of the work makes it seem like a mysterious portion of an arcane chart.

In contrast to her work are a couple of Fiona Pardington highly technical photographs from the series “Nabokov’s Blues” where she has used microscopy cameras to examine butterfly wings, so the details and colours of the wings look more like abstract paintings .

Lolita and several of Nabakov’s other novels have references to butterflies and Humbert Humbert, the narrator and protagonist of Lolita, makes observations of the young woman that are akin to the observations of evolving and emerging pupae. Humbert’s obsessive focus seems to be mirrored in the obsessive nature of Nabokov the lepidopterist.

Russ Flatt’s photography often seems to have a slight disconcerting or surreal quality to them, a mixture of the posed and the snapshot. In “Spoon” ($3450) a female (mother) stands, praying looking over two boys (sons). She is more of an apparition or protective angel or goddess.

Hiria Anderson’s small scenes of suburban and domestic settings at first glance look like typical amateur artists paintings. They are of simple subjects - a pot on a table “A pot of Wenoweno and Brisket” ($1350) or a street scene “View from Tawhana Street” ($1650) but they hint at personal stories and tensions within household or in the community.

Ayesha Green has portraits of three children on their first day at school posed against a patterned wallpaper. They are depicted in a comic book style simplicity which draws on threads of simple depictions of figures from early European art as well as nineteenth century Maori figurative paintings like those at the Rongopai marae.

Star Gossage has painted some of her portraits on found cardboard, one on a box presenting four faces Untitled ($3850) and another on a flattened box ($3850) has several portraits.

Brett Graham has three stylish carvings, “Water Dreaming” ($4250) and PĀNiA! has a couple of constructions including “See Saw Sore Horse” ($3900), part children’s playground toys, part elaborate visual joke. part social commentary.

Giordano Bellincampi and Stefan Dohr with the APO

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Bach & Brahms

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

J.S. Bach, Orchestral Suite No.3

Hans Abrahamsen, Horn Concerto (Australasian premiere)

Brahms, Symphony No.2

Auckland Town Hall

February 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The APO’s latest concert “Bach & Brahms” concert presented works spanning three hundred years - a Bach work from around 1730, the Brahms from the late 1870’s and a new work by the Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen first performed last year in Berlin.

His Horn Concerto has been commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia along with Berlin Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Radio Philharmonia Orchestra (Amsterdam) and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

There was also a real sense of experimentation with both the horn and the use of percussion instruments as was shown in the opening section where the simple woodblock was used for the entry of percussion instruments which then evolved into the full orchestra before the appearance of the horn.

The work featured a , elegant musical wilderness which was punctuated by blasts of the percussion. There was a sense of travelling through a landscape which mirrored a landscape of the mind, where the dreamlike intersected with the nightmarish.

This idea of the contemplative punctuated by nervous strings and percussion continued throughout the work. There was a continual interplay between orchestra and soloist sometimes the horn was an intrusion into the eerie soundscape of the orchestra with the work culminating in a cacophony of apocalyptic sound.

Dohr who seemed to be immersed in the washes of sounds from his horn displayed incomparable stylishness with playing which ranged from the delicate to the intense, at times jarring and discordant at others gentle and almost diaphanous.

The orchestra played the Bach Orchestral Suite as it would have been played 300 years ago, the harpsichord placed centrally, and the strings grouped on either side. At times it looked as though there was a competition between the two groups.

The close grouping help make the structure and the dynamics of the small orchestra much more apparent. It also meant that conductor Giordano Bellincampi was much more involved and his conducting took on a more dynamic and emotional quality.

He was carefully able to indicate the complex layering the instrumental sounds making obvious what at the time of Bach would have been an experimental approach and with some passages one could hear a prefiguring of the Romantic style of the next century.

Brahms had written a very dramatic First Symphony, and this contrasts with the more pastoral Second which is filled with luscious melodies and it was this sublime atmosphere that Bellincampi emphasised over the more melancholic moods that are occasionally heard.

He ensured that the extended and delicate phrases were played in this tranquil atmosphere with some of the woodwinds and brass alluding to a deeper drama below the surface. He also ensured that the lighter, spirited passages of the work provided a hint of the lyrical narrative which is threaded through the work.

Future APO Concerts

March 5 ,Cityscapes

Conductor Robert Spano

Flute Melanie Lançon

Harp Ingrid Bauer

Jennifer Higdon, City Scape: river sings a song to trees

Mozart, Concerto for Flute and Harp

Vaughan Williams, A London Symphony

The Cityscapes concert features music reflecting three different cities – Atlanta, Paris and London. Jennifer Higdon’s tribute to her hometown of Atlanta, celebrates the ‘lush carpet’ of its parks and gardens, fed by ‘streams, creeks and rivers’.

Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp was written while he was in Paris and shows Mozart adapting to the new style of the Sinfonia Concertante, which was extremely popular in Paris at the time as well as his experimenting with the harp.

Although much of Vaughan Williams’ music was inspired by the English countryside and the rural folk tunes , he was also a man of his city and his London Symphony is a portrait of the Edwardian metropolis at the height of its power.

March 21 – 29 The Beethoven Symphonies

In conjunction with the Auckland Arts Festival the APO will present Beethoven 250, performing the complete cycle of nine Beethoven symphonies in four concerts over nine days, led by APO Music Director Giordano Bellincampi, culminating in a performance of the Ninth Symphony featuring New Zealand soloists Madeleine Pierard, Kristin Darragh, Amitai Pati and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

Concert 1: The Classicist Symphony No.1, 2 & 3

Concert 2: The Romantic Symphony No.4 & 5

Concert 3: The Revolutionary Symphony No.6 & 7

Concert 4: The Radical Symphony No.8 & 9

Mark Hadlow (Barry) and Alison Quigan (Gen) in Winding Up. Andi Crown Photography (image)

Roger Hall's "Winding Up": Full of keen observation and incisive wit

Winding Up by Sir Roger Hall

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Waterfront Theatre

Until March 8

Then Hamilton, Hastings, New Plymouth and Tauranga

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

There are probably a number of older couples who suspect that Roger Hall has installed a listening device in their home, recoding their daily lives – the big moments as well as the trivial.

In his latest play Winding Up he has managed to capture the essence of the lives of retired couples in a perceptive play full of keen observation and incisive wit.

In the play we meet Barry (Mark Hadlow) and Gen (Alison Quigan) who we encountered thirty years ago in the playwright’s Conjugal Rites. Now in their seventies, living in an apartment complex they are at new stage in their lives – planning overseas trips, coping with the problems of older children, dealing with their aging bodies and the body corporate.

There are also the minor issues of decluttering books and clothes, finding and using the technology – phones, smart watches and hearing aids as well as coping with the reading of instruction booklets.

The enjoyment of the play is not in a string of great jokes and clever punch lines though. Halls mere observation of people, seeing the humour in everyday interchanges and the banality of life makes the play relevant and comical. For Barry even a death in the family is good news and Gen’s attempt to get health insurance is more challenging than an appearance on The Chase.

Many in the audience were not laughing at the characters on stage but at seeing themselves parodied. There were times when couples in the audience would glance knowingly at each other at particularly sharp comments.

The several sequences around funerals, attending them and planning them allows for some black humour including a rant by Barry addressed to God for the creator’s lack of understanding of his predicament.

With all the reminiscing about the past and the funerals there is a great selection of music ranging from the Gluck’s soulful Orpheus and Eurydice, Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face to an off-key singing of Danny Boy. The music which adds another dimension to the characters also provides an emotional backdrop which enhances the play.

Hadlow and Quigan are a great team nicely pacing the comedy as well as expertly using body language in their physical encounters. They manage to invest their character with a real sense of personality, individuals who we recognise and understand .

Like his other plays the characters are stereotypes and much of the dialogue is clichéd, but they are New Zealand stereotypes and it is the idiom of our own vernacular. Which we can engage with. It is this familiarity which makes our responses both excruciating as well as sympathetic.

Marian Fountain, Here and There. & Mother Earth (interior). John Blackburn, Mountain Form & Ark

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn, Parallel Reflections

Marian Fountain & John Blackburn

Parallel Reflections

Artis Gallery

Until February 23

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Paris based New Zealand artist Marian Fountain who recently created a memorial to the Wellington Quarry Museum at Arras has opened a new exhibition at Artis Gallery.

The work in the exhibition all relate to notions of the beginnings of life and ideas. She sees and explores connections between the beginnings of human life, plant life and the birth of ideas.

At its simplest this idea is seen in “Dancing Chromosomes” ($8850) the two ‘dancing’ objects are like small diagrammatic sculptures of the structure of DNA.The there is “Germination” ($7250), depicting a seed with the emergence of a shoot which is both organic as well as like a human form.

There are other works around this theme with “Vertical Pod” ($8250) like a large bean pod. a budding form with “Petite Pousse” ($6300) and a more developed plant with ”Green Fingers” ($10,850).

Works around the idea of human birth and development can be seen with the large “Mother Earth” ($13,500) which is like a large breast plate. The back / inside of this work acts as a shelter for dozens of small heads and swarms of chromosome shapes.

Then there is the large female / goddess work “Squeeze” ($17,500). These and similar works owe much to the prehistoric works like the Venus of Willendorf and indicate the artists referring back to the birth of sculpture.

The works which refer to the genesis of ideas has its culmination in “Becoming Conscious” ($11,600), a work which she had been commissioned to produce addressing the idea of mindfulness. The work consists of several bubbles or thought capsules with two small figures contemplating a search for meaning. A similar work “Here and There” ($5500) is also a contemplation on the nature and creation of ideas.

Also showing at the gallery is John Blackburn whose works show the artist grappling with approaches to juxtaposing texture, colour, forms and surface. The paintings which merge architecture, landscape and atmosphere, create works which hint at subtle narratives and environments.

They range from the almost ethereal “White Solitude” ($3500) to the boisterous “Sunset Harmony” ($26,000) Blackburn employs a limited number of shapes or forms some of which are variations on the basic shapes of triangle, circle and square, but mainly he use a simple curved shape which can be read as a cup, a hill or even some animal shell or skin. It is also a boat shape, and this is obvious with the work “Ark” ($7500) where a large protective curved shape encloses several smaller shapes

His use of colour is sparing but when he does use it as in ”Red Sunset” ($4250) it is to dramatic effect while in others such as “Retracting Sea” ($10,500) the colour has an airy delicacy.

Along with the landscape / abstract shaped works there are other which are used to create a sensation of tension as with the diptych “Fire Painting ($7500) and “Fire Painting – small ($3000) a work where the artist has used actual smoke to create the work.

With some of the smaller works such as “Mountain Form” ($3500) , “Storm Cloud” ($3500) and “Forms Touching” ($3500) the shapes, colour and texture come together in works where observation and abstraction mesh.

John Turner: A Life in Photographs

John B Turner, Library and Laboratory

Bowerbank Ninow

Until February 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

John Turner has been one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary photographer not just for his photographic skills. He is also a critic, teacher, researcher and collector. For many years he was a lecturer at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and was also founder of the photographers’ cooperative, PhotoForum.

His work is in all major public and private collections and he recently donated his substantial archive to the Auckland Art Gallery. It is an unparalleled collection that reflects his 60-year involvement in photography.

The current exhibition of his work, “Library and Laboratory” at Bowerbank Ninow provides an overview of Turner’s work as well as his own collection of photographs His photography is essentially documentary but across a range of themes and interests.

Some capture moments others are more considered. In many works he documented the natural environment and the built environment, with others it is the domestic environment. There are many which are records of his family and personal life.

All of these build a collection which creates a history of our times as well as of the individual, his relationships, journeys and interests as well as being an historic record of place and time. There are also many works which show a quirky observational approach as well as a visual wit and keen sense of narrative.

Turners personal life is seen in works such as images of his parents “Mal and Freda Turner” ($1800), the poignant “My Birth Mother’s file, Porirua Hospital” ($1600) as well as the only self-portrait, an image of him in bed with a lover in “Self Portrait, Thorndon, Wellington” ($1400)

The record of his journey through the physical environment includes “Lucy’s Fish Shop, Mount Eden” ($1200), one of series he took of shops and buildings in the Mount Eden / Kingsland area where he lived for some time.

Then there are images of domestic interiors of places where he lived, visited or worked such as “Ross’s Bedroom, Lower Hutt” ($1800), “Kitchen Cupboards, Lower Hutt” ($1400) and “Photographers Office, Dominion Museum, Wellington” ($1600.)

Then there are the images of Nature ,observations of the textures and light of Nature with the striated rock of “Ngaio Gorge” ($1600),and the tree bark of “Pohutukawa, Dominion Museum” ($1400).

There are also a collection of more whimsical works with “Drain pipe, Tory Street, Wellington” ($1200) and the surrealist toilet seat in “Lavatory, Paparangi” ($1400).

Another section of the photographers work hints at in his personal photographic collection with “My Print of Edward Weston’s Civilian Defence . (1942) in shattered frame”. ($2000).

This famous image of the great American photographer is one of the many photographs in John Turner’s personal collection of local and international photographers.

That image of Weston’s “Civilian Defence” is probably the most valuable in the exhibition along with George Silk’s two works, “Tokyo bath house ($7000) and “Diver at Princeton University’s Dillon Gym Pool ($6000).

There are a couple of other international photographers in the collection including William Garnett’s “Salt #1 Death Valley 1954 ($3000) and Shigeru Takato “Holmes” ($1200).

The collection of other photographers forms a comprehensive overview of New Zealand photography from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

The major nineteenth century New Zealand photographers such as the Burton Brothers and James Valentine are represented and there are several early urban views of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington as well as images of settlements and events from the late nineteenth century including some images of the White Terraces by unknown photographers ($400).

Photographers of the twentieth century are well represented: There are three of Theo Schoon’s mud pool works ($1600 - $2600), Robin Morrison is represented with four works ($800 - $1000), Glenn Busch, four works ($800 - $1300) and four Peter Peryers ($2000 -$3000).

There are a number of brilliant individual works such as Les Cleveland’s dilapidated “The European Hotel, Charleston, Westland” ($1500) Megan Jenkinson’s “Maketu Hot Pools II” ($800) and Gary Baigent’s “Christian Spiritualist, Newton” ($600)

Grace Bader, Untitled 10

Grace Bader and the New Cubism

Grace Bader, Recent Paintings

Melanie Roger Gallery

Until February 22

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Grace Bader’s exhibition at the Melanie Roger Gallery looks as though the artist has come from an encounter with Picasso and Braque, creating a new offshoot of Cubism.

This new look at Cubism seems also to reference the earlier work of New Zealand artists such as Louise Henderson.

The works which are painted in subdued colours – ochres, greens, blues and red are rendered over a gesso surface which has a heavily applied impasto. These boards seem as though could be recycled from a previous purpose, the random clumps and swathes of underpainting unrelated to the artists overpainting.

Like the early cubists Bader approaches her subjects in an effort to depict three-dimensions on a flat surface breaking up the objects into many different shapes and planes, repainting them from a different perspective.

This investigation of the Cubist legacy, reinventing the ideas around abstraction allows for a new understanding of the painting process and of the links between observation and invention.

Her subjects are mainly of figures and still lifes, though In some cases, the distinction is blurred with many of the works having a degree of abstraction.

The figurative works include ones which have the monumentality of a landscape such as Untitled 4, ($1000) while with Untitled 2 ($2500) there is a sense of a figure in movement, and in Untitled 1 ($2500) the figure is facetted making it a multi layered portrait.

With some of the works the heavy impasto appears to have been used by the artist to emphasis aspects of the painting such as in Untitled 3 ($2500)where the vertical lines provide emphasis to the figurative forms and in Untitled 10 ($4000) the ridge of paint gives three dimensional quality to a cup.

Most of the works consist of flat intersecting planes but with the occasional work such as Untitled 11 ($1500) the work a has the appearance of collage with patterned coloured area contrasting with monochrome shapes.

With all these works there is a combination of a reworking of Cubism as well as an emphasis on the tactile nature of painting along with an ambivalence and tension between the depiction of the reality of the objects and their abstracted shapes.