REVIEWS: three artists record, preserve natural and built environment
John Walsh, I Can’t Stop Loving You
Gow Langsford Gallery
Until May 19
George Baloghy, Reviving
Until May 20
John Pusateri, fOWL
Until May 12
Three recent Auckland gallery exhibitions look at cultural and historical identity, and the preserving of the past in relation to the natural environment, the built environment and the native fauna.
In his dealings with issues around land and cultural identity, John Walsh has often populated his paintings with figures, many of them humans but also others wraith-like apparitions, spirits or symbols evolving out of the land, bush and water.
However, in his current exhibition I Can’t Stop Loving You, apart from one large work there are no figures - the power of the land speaks for itself.
The title of the exhibition would seem to be a concern for the land in its pristine state and the titles of individual works highlight the artist’s sympathies and concerns.
The show is particularly relevant in view of debate around asset sales and Contact Energy’s recent decision not to embark on new hydro development schemes.
One work, Power Station 101 ($45,000), features a dark, shrouded valley with a couple of lakes and a river. The high-sided valley is an ideal site for a hydro station.
Other works such as State Asset 101 ($30,000), depicting dense bush, and No One Here It’s Ours ($45,000) reinforce the need for protection of native forest and habitat.
The large five-metre long work I Can’t Stop Loving You resembles the artist's earlier work, with islands which appear to float on clouds and figures inhabiting the bush.
A group of figures perched on tree trunks create an environment which seems both an alien world and a paradise. They are protectors and guardians ever watchful.
With all these works the artist’s deft brush strokes and carefully limited palette create works which are political and meditative, linking past history and contemporary events.
George Baloghy’s exhibition Reviving presents a series of paintings which depict the Auckland of the late nineteenth and early 20th century.
Using early photographs, the artist has painted landscape works which artists of the time rarely produced.
They are of the original streets and buildings, recording ordinary events.
The artist’s normally omnipresent motor cars are replaced by trams in such works as End of the Tramline, Kingsland circa 1912 ($8500) and Tram Stop, Karangahape Road, 1927 ($8500).
Several of the views are of the Mt Eden area, including the remarkable View of Mt Eden from Symonds St 1904 ($8500), which is an interesting historical view as well as showing the changes in the growth of trees and bush on Mt Eden itself.
There is a spectacular View of Hobson Bay from Mt Hobson circa 1912 ($$16,000) depicting an almost rural Auckland 100 years ago.
The artist has produced a couple of diptyches where the old and new are linked, as in Parnell Rise 1927-2011 ($15,500) and Cucksey’s Corner 1873-2011 ($9000).
In both cases the older image is painted in monochrome while the contemporary image is in the artist’s highly coloured style.
These works are a sophisticated way in which to bring the past alive, showing in colour what the black and white photograph of the times lose in immediacy.
A significant body of John Pusateri’s work is involved with the close observation of ornithological subjects from the Auckland Museum collection and in his latest show at Seed gallery he continues this.
There are some works which are similar to his previous drawings of bird specimens, often tied and tagged like New Breed III ($650).
There are a couple of graphite works on paper, such as Nocturne I ($1600), where the artist has depicted an owl sitting on a branch like an eerie night-time photograph.
The most dramatic work are some where the artist has used a digital print of an owl and worked on these with graphite, coloured pencils and pastel.
The resulting work gives the animals the realism of a living creature. Some like fOWL II ($750) have a quizzical anthropomorphic look as it gazes at the viewer side on.