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, April 16, 2008

Imaginary worlds

Barbara Tuck: Calibrating the loss of Sparrow Hawk
Anna Miles Gallery, Auckland
26 March - 19 April 2008

Barbara Tuck’s paintings usually feature sections of dripping overhanging vegetation hovering in an isolated, highly ambiguous space, with a soft diffuse light behind them. In the past there was a sense of piecemeal fragmentation where the placement of each luxuriant botanical extravaganza seemed tentative, but in this exhibition her composition is particularly confident. There is the same deliberately imprecise rendering of foliage and ground and playing off of light and dark as before, but now also there is a new interest in a deeper perspectival space: receding horizon lines are mixed with a hint of the panoramic.

The positioning of elements is now so assured, and the panels are bigger. Amongst the leafy clusters are ochre landforms with sky-reflecting rock pools. We are seeing more earth.

Tuck has a distinctive manner of stroking the thin paint onto the board she uses as a support. This makes the earth around the copses of trees feathery and softly mottled. The very air seems caressed. With these paintings imaginary ingredients flow into one another; sprouting vines and barky growths blend into wispy clouds of Naples yellow and lavender mist.

Tuck’s use of fictitious landforms is similar to the landscapes created by the great Waikato surrealist, Margot Philips (in the Chartwell Collection but not illustrated online) except that with Philips the light is much harsher, there are few trees, and furrows of the land are like those of a giant exposed brain. Both utilise fantasies from within to make haunting extrapolations of their natural environment.

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