Fugitive – new paintings by Pamela Wolfe

Pamela Wolfe, Fugitive
Artis Gallery
Until November 15

One of the first paintings in the Corsini Collection show at the Auckland Art Gallery is an image of one of the Corsini women depicted as Flora holding a bunch of flowers – peonies. anemones and jasmine. These exquisitely painted flowers were valued not so much for the beauty of their painting but rather the meanings of the flowers – notions associated with love – honour, romantic love, forgotten love, but also the negative aspects of love – guilt and shame.

Some of these same flowers appear in the new exhibition of flower paintings by Pamela Wolfe. In some respects, she is continuing this tradition of flower paintings calling the exhibition Fugitive in a reference to the idea of passing time and seasons and the eventual fading of beauty

Wolfe may also be playing with the notions of the language and meaning of flowers as both painters of the Renaissance and later the 17th-century Dutch masters. Even if the viewer is unable to understand the conversations which the flowers may be having with each other or the viewer, we can be aware that there are the possibilities of these lurking meanings.

As with some of her more recent exhibitions the backgrounds of the paintings are a light grey, very different from her similar flower paintings of a few years ago when the backgrounds were black. These black backgrounds gave her works a clear connection with the Dutch flower paintings where there was a greater sense of brooding on the transient nature of life. Wolfe's change to the lighter background has given the floral arrangements a brighter appearance and they take on a sharper and more intense sense of colour.

Although all the works are carefully constructed to emphasis either their arbitrary arrangements or more carefully considered displays, the artist can be seen manipulating them so that in Delphiniums, Roses & Allium ($26,000) the purples and pinks are carefully combined showing the outside intervention of the florist.

Some of the works such as Sweet Pea & Roses in Jar ($17,500) are very formal presentations of a carefully arranged floral display whereas Tree Peonies & Wild Flowers ($24,500) is tightly cropped, giving a greater sense of intensity.