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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cute but complex

Richard Killeen: Butterfly Evening
Ivan Anthony, Auckland
14 May - 14 June 2008

These works continue Killeen’s transition from works on paper to large canvases with his computer assisted, densely detailed images that usually reference past projects. There is a jewel-like quality and plenitude of detail that recalls International Gothic. In some ways they are a two dimensional version of Peter Madden’s paper sculptures in that they are almost self-contained universes.

The use of varnish and more substantial size creates a better depth than previously. Very decorative, they are also obliquely abstract in their organisation, playing off different methods of dealing with volumetric space. Some depicted forms contain flat, but extremely complex patterns. Others are rounded and use light to convey plasticity.

The drawing of faces, figures, toys, buildings and wildlife recalls Killeen’s early ‘realist’ pre-cutout paintings, but now combined with mind-boggling detail on every imaginable surface. They are wondrously obsessive in their preoccupation with form–describing ornament. They are almost like Art Brut (especially someone like Adolf Wolfli) in that Killeen seems compulsive and really really driven to keep adding detail.

Their use of fairytale fantasy makes them obviously like nursery art, but as I’ve said before, there is a creepy sci-fi and industrial component too - though I think this aspect is diminishing. Personally, this current Killeen period fascinates me – despite the work’s cuteness. There is so much within each canvas. So much recycling of past motifs too. They are utterly engrossing.

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