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, May 2, 2008

Nice rectangle

Gretchen Albrecht: Rose Gardens and the Deep Sea Swell
Sue Crockford, Auckland
29 April - 24 May 2008

This is a surprisingly varied show for Albrecht, and that is good, for often her work looks churned out and repetitive. Sensual, technically proficient, but too ubiquitous. Here we have some small framed works on paper in the back (stock) gallery, And the Deep Sea Swell, a large blue and green canvas hemisphere out front (with a tiny little oil on copper hemisphere on the same wall), Threshold -Threnos a big low rectangular triptych on the wall by the door, and several horizontal canvas ovals (Rose Gardens).

Those ovals are not a stable shape like the two-part, flat bottomed hemispheres, and their thin horizontal lines of green can’t provide them with a needed firm anchor. The liveliest ones are energised with wildly turbulent splashed underpainting, but their similarity to the hemispheres in chromatic mood undermines their identity as painted objects.

The most interesting work by far is the long, three part (three coloured) rectangle. The grey-brown righthand panel in particular looks refreshing because Albrecht’s characteristic sumptuous colour, with its suggestions of the courtly and crushed velvet curtains, is not present. It seems brooding and sullen, and not about light on fabric. It is as if a little atmospheric dirty umber crept in (courtesy of Mrkusich perhaps?).

With a linear rectangle hovering within the triptych, and an advancing mauve centre, Albrecht now seems to be exploring a new sort of space, with drier, brusherly (unstained) paint and tight architectural structure. There is something of a brutalist concrete bunker lurking in this nicely proportioned painting and that is exciting. She is using optical restraint and drawing the viewer inside the work, with less emphasis upon its surface. Smart move.


Anonymous said...

My friends and I spent a little time wondering about the green horizontal lines on the ovals. Initially, I thought they looked like masking tape painted over. They don't really do much for the paintings as a whole. What on earth are they about?

John Hurrell said...

Please pareidoliac, this is not Artbash. Can you identify yourself?