Review: Art by Simon Ingram and Laurence Aberhart

Simon Ingram’s Digital Plastique
Laurence Aberhart's New Northland Explorations 
Gow Langsford Gallery
Until June 24

Simon Ingram’s recent works have tended to be made using his painting machine where the works are designed and executed through digital technology in a way that allows the artist to distance himself from the traditional notion of the painter as the individual creator, eliminating ideas of emotional and aesthetic responses.

In his latest exhibition, Digital Plastique, he has changed tack slightly by initially producing his initial drawings on his phone. They are not created in the studio but rather when he is on the move responding to environments and events.

The paintings are made by a painting robot with the artist interacting and intervening in the painting process. They end up looking like half-completed ideas, tentative descriptions and inconclusive diagrams.

Many of the works look as though they are diagrams or notations for intended larger works, visual ideas that once might have been included in an artist’s notebook.

Works such as “Untitled (Waterview Skatepark”), ($16,000) seem to be diagrams, trying to understand the layout and intersections of an actual skatepark. Similarly, “au court de tennis ($8500) is both a description of a tennis court and an analysis of the game.

Many of the works have a cubist-like feel to them in the way they divide up space and combine various layers as in Composition in Gris ($5000) and Rose et Bleu ($5000).

Laurence Aberhart’s exhibition, New Northland Explorations, revisits many of the locations he photographed 30 years ago. In these works he records church interiors, buildings, memorials and cemeteries. With no individuals present in the works the images take on a slightly surreal presence as though history has passed them by. But they are also images of communities, some of which time has passed by and others which are still very much alive.

The artist says of the exhibition “What I am concerned about here are the small humble things that for many people as they drive through the land would barely notice – just glimpse out of the corner of the eye and pass on. As I have done also. So now I am stopping and spending time to look and absorb. And trying to catch what I feel is the essence of the ‘The North' in its ordinariness. The plain and humble, and catch it before that too passes away.”

There are elements of humour within the exhibition with Urupa, Pipiwai Road, Northland (all works $4500) featuring a slightly chaotic group of crosses contrasting with the car cemetery of Pipiwai Road, Northland. Then there are surreal images such as the cramped Interior, Alexandra, Central Otago, which looks like the optical distortions of an Ames Room, with incongruous swastika and peace signs scrawled on the walls, or the lone caravan in Bland Bay, Northland,

Of the caravan, Aberhart says “I spent some time directly in front of, waiting for the light to do more than what is wasn't doing. I took a photo and started to pack the camera away when I looked back and instantly saw what I had been waiting for; the 'scene' to be recorded, enlightened by the magic of light."

There is also his interest in the quirky images such as the caravan in Landscape #113, Alexandra, Central Otago, featuring a local landscape painted on the exterior or Motel interior, Tauranga, which offers a painted landscape of Tauranga and the mount on the concrete block wall.