It is a big show this, 29 works in all, and the 54th group show conjured, cobbled and put together since my beginning as a gallerist in March 1988.
But for all that, and for relationships around the room – like the intricate coral patterns in Marie Le Lievre’s glazed oil paintings and Fiona Pardington’s Sanguine Unicorn
for example, or the playful linear aspects of Julia Morison’s Wayzgoose
beside Rob Hood’s re-constructed contour maps, the ‘bad maps’ of Otira – there is one pairing I want to dwell on a little longer. These are the two works either side a corner in the back gallery, Gibbston, Central Otago
by Peter Peryer, and Salt of the Earth
by Melissa Macleod.
Both are works on paper: one a colour photograph by the delightfully willful senior pro Peryer, and the other a biggish drawing in graphite by Macleod, an Ilam graduate in sculpture under Andrew Drummond, now working again after committing to family for more than a decade.
Both works exude a not inconsiderable sense of mass, and both pay serious attention to detail within that mass. Peryer’s photograph is the top of a big rock roadside in Gibbston, with a glimpse of the Crown Range and a brilliant blue sky behind. Doesn’t sound much, and maybe it isn’t. But the textures, the different veins of colour, and the lichens on the rock are quite something, whilst the light, one facet bright and the other in half light, enhances the slightly odd angularity of this rock. Also unexpected are the twin tips of the rock, and the fact that they seem almost to touch tufts of white cloud above. (Might this reference Double Cone, the very top of the mighty Remarkables, out of shot but just behind?) Then on the right as we look at it, the junction of this rock with its background is seamless. The curve of its shoulder meets the distant horizon easily and gracefully against the sky. This is landscape poised, beautiful and sensate. Ideas of size, scale and distance are being toyed with, but things feel simply wonderful at the same time.
The uncanny and the enigmatic also inhabit Macleod’s drawing. Formally it resembles a big black wedge, but like Peryer’s rock it is angled strangely and asymmetrically within its composition. The shallow steps along its upper edge seem really to go neither up nor down. This is a drawing towards a temporary work, an ephemeral mountain of sand. But the way Macleod has worked the graphite onto the paper lends real weight to this ‘proposal’. The mark-making is layered with heft. The graphite grain (sometimes dry looking, and sometimes much darker and more rich) is tamped in different directions, suggesting the compacted layers within this potentially massive construction (a bit like Peryer’s variegated rock). Both these works are simple yet direct. Both combine the intimate with the grand. I couldn’t resist such effect and such sureness of touch across the back corner of #54.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.