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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spooky trees

Johanna Pegler: Earthling
Anna Miles
29 October - 22 November 2008

Pegler’s work is interesting not because of any technical finesse but because of the sense certain paintings have of mysterious unseen powers. ‘Uncanny’ is one way of describing this, ‘pantheistic’ is another. The good works are not straight landscapes – that would be dead boring. They have an eerie foreboding, a hard-to–pin-down creepiness. It is a characteristic that makes her work interesting because this quality that makes her paintings similar to say Margot Philips, the Waikato painter, may not be deliberately planned. It seems to just happen.

In this show, two of the three works have this undercurrent. One of an estuary bed, has Daliesque pools in the foreground arranged like a multi-eyed anamorphic face. It doesn’t look natural, as if there is a code to be cracked by examining the formal placement of rebuslike elements. The other terrific work is of what, at first glance, seems to be wind moving the branches of trees. The rhythms hint that the trees themselves are moving their branches, not any breeze.

I’ve commented on this unsettling quality before in Pegler’s paintings. It really like it when it appears. It is a form of surrealism that links her Wanganui landscapes with Lynch and Hitchcock. Without it though, her paintings are forgettable.

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