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.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Keith Clancy: part of group show Surface Edge
The Lane Gallery
17 June – 5 July 2008

Five small paintings by Keith Clancy are part of a group exhibition involving a dozen other artists at the Lane Gallery. The venue is not the sort of venue I take seriously. Too small, usually too much work closely hung, often part of a framing business and a lot of undersized and mediocre work. The type of gallery commonly found in Parnell. However there are different overlapping ‘art worlds’, and this one plays a role in art education generally as a stepping stone. I know that sounds patronizing but I think it is obvious.

Clancy’s paintings feature the kind of optical qualities found on certain modern cars where the colours change hue according to the angle you view them. Often it is some sort of magenta (or ochrey gold) that changes to a bluey green.

I suspect that the ‘gee whiz’ factor for these works would quickly wear thin if you owned one. The colour you get from standing directly in front of the canvas is different from what you see on either side. The effect is created from using layers of thin paint in conjunction with a clear varnish, and related to lenticular photography (eg Megan Jenkinson) or murals using painted vertical strips like John Drawbridge’s at the Beehive. The hue looks slightly metallic with a hint of a grey wash. Its iridescence gives it a seductive appeal.

With traditional colours the rule is that retinal properties cause hot hues to advance and cool ones to recede. Unlike say fluorescent colour, these don’t advance, only recede.

Outside of art historical baggage to do with ‘the end of painting’ etc, with monochromes the spatial relationship with the wall is important, as is the visceral sensation of the hue and the surface sheen (or lack of). Some might argue you get two for the price of one. I must admit that since a teenager I have lusted over a certain sparkly blue you used to find on motorcycle helmets and bike petrol tanks. Overall I don’t find motorcycles remotely interesting, but this particular colour and kind of paint, with sparkling particles suspended in clear varnish, really gets to me emotionally – as do related glowing road signs at night. I’d be happy to own a canvas displaying this particular substance and quality.

If Clancy’s paintings were a lot bigger, maybe vertically bifurcated with conventional paint used in one of the halves, they might be more intriguing. Perhaps they need extension of surface and complexity of composition? I’m thinking out loud here (and starting to burble). He’d have to test the options.

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