GORDON H. BROWN
The exhibition of work by Rudolf Gopas, Philip Trusttum and Philip Clairmont at the New Vision Gallery in June contained the germ of a good idea which did not quite come off. The rationale behind the show was the link the two younger men had in their formative years as student painters in Christchurch under the guidance of Rudolf Gopas. It was, in a way, a gesture of acknowledgement to a painter whose influence opened up new avenues within New Zealand painting.
Unfortunately, despite efforts by the Gallery to acquire at least one painting by Copas of the type that had initially provided the impetus to young painters like Trusttum and Clairmont, none were available. This resulted in Copas being represented by works of marginal interest within the terms of the exhibition or, indeed, as paintings. Only Galactic had anything of substance to offer. Here there was a convincing sense of depth appropriate to the title, as well as texture and a restricted use of colour that supported the painting's theme. Despite some of the written ideas expressed in the recent work, this was dominated by what seemed to be an indulgence in introspection.
Philip Trusttum was represented by five paintings; but these were uneven in quality. Although Blind Hall contained some fine areas of brush-work there were also inconsistencies which, in the final analysis, rendered it a shade disappointing. Dominating his selection was a very painterly work, West Wall Mobile, that not only had a richness in the limited imagery used, but was supported by his cross-hatching technique. The pastel-like brown and yellow hues produced by this method were contrasted with the denser paint of the small, but pictorially important, triangular shapes.
Two of the paintings, Home James and Bedford, were executed in a style that suggested colour pencil drawings with large areas of untouched raw canvas to which the artist had added a strong element of whimsy in the way the suggestive images were treated. Bedford was the better organized of the two, with its host of details under greater control. Home James, however, was compositionally more daring.
The remaining work, Darts, combined both methods, and thus acted as a link between the two approaches demonstrated in the selection. 'The dart-board reference was typical of the humble origin of much of Trusttum's recent imagery.
The three Clairmont paintings were good representative examples of this artist's work; and because of this they largely dominated the exhibition. The unfinished Telephone Triptych may have had odd areas as yet not fully resolved, but the panel inscribed 'crisis' had a boldness and strength of form, colour and pictorial movement that matched his best work. The strong greens, yellows and reds found in this painting and in Chair saw a return of Clairmont's earlier practice of delineating and underscoring the various images with an expressive black line that varied in thickness and intensity. Quieter, (and slightly more complicated pictorially) Remembrance of Things Past was impressive in a way that was both typical as well as being at variance with his recent use of symbolic imagery. The undertow implied by the title seemed to have been stressed by the almost hidden eye-like images found throughout the painting.