Artist crosses the line between abstraction and realism

Michael Hight, Crossing The Line
Published by Gow Langsford Gallery
RRP $49.00

Gow Langsford Gallery recently published a monograph on the work of Michael Hight – Michael Hight: Crossing the line.

The publication traces the artist's painting career from early abstract assemblages, through iconic beehive landscapes, to recent explorations of nocturnal memory-scapes; and features essays by art writer and curator, Gregory O'Brien, and poet and author Paula Green.

Throughout Hight’s career there has been a sense of the artist working as a medieval alchemist or apothecary which merges with his role as s contemporary scientist and teller of tales. He documents and categorises in an attempt to understand and explain his world.

He also displays a modernist fascination with the links between the medieval conception of the world composed of the classical humours and the modern world of analysis, bringing these strands together with visions which align with the writings of the writer Jorge Luis Borges.

The texts by Gregory O’Brien and Paula Green are able to link the various ideas, themes and stylistic transitions of the artist. O’Brien notes about the three major bodies of work that ‘”while the emphasis shifts radically between series, the various modes share a number of over-riding characteristics. Alongside the formal and conceptual links there are aspects of the work’s character that are constant or, to be more accurate, in constant adjustment.” One can see similarities between the mandela-like shapes of the early abstract work, the structures inherent the in beehive cultures as well as the hives themselves and the way in which the artist imposes structures and narratives in his more recent Black Paintings.

Paula Green’s essay looking at the nature of the drama in the artists work stating that in his later paintings the artist “becomes archaeologist, theatre master, storyteller, bricoleur, memorist” leading to results that can be nostalgic, unsettling, macabre and theatrical.

Seeing the evolution of the artist's work through the hundred images in the book, one becomes aware of the surreal quality of his work as the artist plays with his images and his ability to create illusions.

Gow Langsford has a small exhibition of the artist's work spanning nearly 20 years from his geometrically gridded Kaingaroa Plain ($18,500) of 1997, Horopito ($19,500) of 2010 showing his beehives along with a disused railway carriage through to one of his most recent works Crossing The Line, Waihoau River ($45,000) of 2014