Exhibitions Auckland


39 Drawings by 8 Artists at the Auckland City Art Gallery

From Young Contemps, crowded bazaar; to quiet mezzanine gallery, thankful for plenty of space around drawings, of carefully chosen young artists, intended by Andrew Bogle to make a spectrum of styles, from deadpan pop to improvisation, to cover current tendencies as they say. The spectrum has holes. Hartigan's food paintings, pretty, stale. Where is Dick Frizell, in four various bits and pieces? Hartigan's wittier with nail-varnish-brushed-on-nail picture, drawing of a painter at work, as it were. To come on to heavy duty workers now, which is the point, spectral analysis is only a package, excuse, to show good makers of drawings.

Untitled 1976
oil on linen, 500 x 590 mm.

Here's Martin Ball making, insistently, present close ups of bikie characters, on beach, in pencil, smudged graphite, oily, over unshaven faces, or over sad dimness of lone girl, in togs, hunched up, on rocks. At the other end of fashion, Gavin Chilcott does mad dainty Lakeland pencil drawings, out of Matta's surrealism, and an overlay of Art Deco. A stylish stance. He refers his wobbly colour rectangles to blankets, rough patches, or bombing patterns, while intrusive lozenge shapes in a stand of upright oranges and purples brings on Rhino Scare. Chilcott breaks a spell of seven or eight years invisibility in this show. He disappeared after Elam years. Gavin Buxton is just beginning. He's nineteen: craftsman who knows what graphite's capabilities are, to dig grooves in paper, to spread, as point goes blunt, to vary tone with hand pressure. These properties are his starting points for demonstrations of spaces, repetitions, symmetries and illusions. He makes nests of rapidly drawn curves, clusters around an invisible target it would appear. It's conceptual work, not action-improvisation, working Lethbridge territory.

The Determined Abstractionist 1977
pencil and watercolour, 725 x 545 mm.

Denys Watkins, Phillip Clairmont and Allen Maddox are the stars of this show. Pop, Realism, Abstract on the spectrum of style-labels, maybe, but good stuff to look at. Watkins classically presents images, of nude well-hung man, in bare essentials of stage-set. The mileage to be had from this depends on stripping down to minimum of objects, space-cues, avoidance of symbol, favouring existential encounter. Nude man, abstract painter strides by, large brush erect in hand, his work on the wall behind him. Or he sits, at one end of large bar, or desk, while nude model pours blue liquid, at a slant from jug to glass. Nude matinee idol encounters spiky cactus in Succulent. Big drawings, to be seen from across a room.

Clairmont uses big paper for, close up, still-life, interiors, accumulating long twisted lines and short hatchings, in strips, crawling over the surface, at each moment finding short-hand code, for nerves, naked feelings, tracking over surface, no pre-planned structure. The intensity of his art shows, in sharp pencil, ball-point, or fibre-tip, more than in paint, which is smeary, churned, over-worked, too slow and imprecise to register split-second movements and pleasures, as here. I've never liked his paintings, so come with great pleasure to find he's one of best makers of drawings in New Zealand.

Oval Mirror
ink drawing, 890 x 640 mm.

Maddox like Clairmont goes on and on across a page improvising. But his attentions are to the page and rhythm, exclusive of models, objects, still-life, etcetera. And discontinuities, as in paintings, where brush-smear and splatter make for extra havoc, come up cleaner in drawings. Two, coloured, criss-cross rowed drawings, in which colours do not, repeat, do not, make patterns, because he goes fast, one colour at a time, letting his hand decide direction and placing for each stroke. In black he pursues bent criss-crosses, also rapid, quixotic zigzags. The fastest hand in the country.