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.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Kirstin Carlin, Michael Harrison: Destination
Snowwhite, Unitec School of Design
20 October - 14 November 2008

In the two narrow rooms of Snowwhite gallery are eight Michael Harrison acrylic-on-paper works, and six oil paintings by Kirstin Carlin; alternating in small groups. They are an odd couple, Harrison and Carlin, brought together by Snowwhite’s curator Mary-Louise Browne: his delicately precise edges and gently mottled surfaces acting as a foil for her ragged contours and under-painted, broadly-brushed streaks.

Harrison is the more accomplished artist by far, judging his intimate scale carefully in relation to the carefully aligned, meticulously positioned shapes that he constructs with considerable finesse. With Carlin, the small vistas she creates are often crammed, having no tension with the edges of their modest stretchers. Her symmetrical landscapes are underworked with their thin sweeping strokes, though one asymmetrical image of woods around a lake is better because of its isolated, vibrant squiggles for trees. Of her selection, her paintings of castles work best due to her weaving together of perpendicularly opposed brush strokes. They have a sense of controlled construction that her blander landscapes lack.

Where symmetry fails for Carlin it succeeds for Harrison. Because brushstrokes are not his subject-matter, he can pull his audience in close and not need to make largish works. He concentrates on perfecting nuances of shape so that birds in the sky become logos - like out of a Batman movie – as if positioned in front of the moon.
Harrison creates psychological drama in the tradition of the Siennese painter Sassetta, with divine signs in the sky, but using a modernist simplicity.

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