Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Three decades on

In Good Form: the Abstract Art of Roy Good 1967 - 2007, curated by Edward Hanfling
Lopdell House, Titirangi.
14 December 2007 - 10 February 2008

Ed Hanfling does the Auckland reviews for Art New Zealand, but he is also nationally known for his Ferner publications on Ian Scott, and his involvement with the Gus Fisher show ‘Vuletic and his Circle’. He obviously has a serious passion for geometric abstraction, especially that coming out of Auckland, so it makes sense that he has put together this small survey of Roy Good’s paintings.

Though a painter, Good also worked as a designer and teacher after he graduated from the Ilam School of Fine Arts in the early sixties, and many of the paintings show a designer’s sensibility. He had exhibitions at Petar/James, New Vision and Barry Lett, amongst others. He lives in Titirangi, hence the presentation in Lopdell House.

The best work in this mini-retrospective was made in the early to mid seventies. In fact the whole show reeks of the seventies, even paintings made this millennium. Alas there is too much work here for the moderately-sized Lopdell space. The twelve best works would have made an excellent exhibition by themselves, paintings which emphasise Good’s interest in shaped canvas, are architectural in the way their contained forms interact with the surrounding room, and which downplay his interest in transparent overlapping planes.This last area of research, I think, has not been as successful as his use of 'solid' forms.

These successful works are influenced by early Mrkusich, mixed in with a bit of Kenneth Noland. Their interest lies in their avoidance of Mrkusich’s Jungian symbolism, and eschewing the square or horizontal rectangle for the stretcher: using T-shapes, or triangles or I-forms instead. The smaller works peppered throughout of spirals, Perspex boxes and linear geometric forms seem too complicated and comparatively slight.

It would be interesting to do a national survey of geometric abstraction from the seventies. In Christchurch for example, the 20/20 Vision group with John Coley, Michael Eaton (and I think Carl Sydow) had a lot in common with Good. As did others like Ray Thorburn with his modular paintings (Good has modular screenprints).

In Good Form helps focus on this fascinating period and resurrect images that might end up being long forgotten – often for sound reason, because for those of us who lived through that period many of these works do look dated. Those that don’t though – like the ones I’ve mentioned - look terrific and have a convincing presence; so a trip out to Titirangi is worth the effort. However because you need to grasp the total picture beyond what is on the Lopdell walls, buy or borrow Hanfling’s excellent scholarly catalogue. With his thorough discussion and various copious illustrations, you get a much needed background context.

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