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.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lemalu @ ACFA

Schaeffer Lemalu: Bobby Feet Blue
A Centre For Art
11 November - 5 December 2009

Schaeffer Lemalu is a Samoan painter whose practice in abstraction involves precise tonal control (difficult to do because when acrylics dry their tones alter) or the use of delicate washes combined with undercoats. Usually the works consist of three or two vertical monochromatic bands – sometimes there are two, but with a horizontal section underneath.

In this show of six smallish canvases, the works vary between high colour saturation and watery, very faint desaturation. Two consist of brightly intense chroma, two are fainter, and the others are extremely understated. Lemalu’s application is often liquidly tactile and painterly. It is not fastidious. Sometimes fingers are used; other times edges of pooled concentrated colour form when he has raised the wet canvas up from a horizontal position to that of vertical.

The nature of super-subtle optical practices is that they can become too minimal - forgettable and boring - if there is no hook (like a tune) to remember them by. That ‘hook’ usually involves bodily interaction: some visceral (as opposed to cerebral) response. The scale needs a tuned-up boost to engage. Otherwise they stay bland – an empty exercise.

Therefore many of these paintings, not the bright ones, remain insipid and a little twee. Their size limits them, for their fields of juxtaposed diluted colour need extension. They stay slightly anaemic and need more body, requiring a little injection of bobby feet blue so they can match the great title.

Images courtesy of the artist and ACFA.

No comments: