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, May 18, 2009

Method for its own sake

Anya Henis: Cool water woman
The Physics Room, Christchurch
29 April - 24 May 2009

This small exhibition of four ‘nature’ paintings by Anya Henis, though still preoccupied with matters cultural in terms of representation, has no architectural or manmade forms to be seen - unlike her larger show at Newcall gallery last year. Though skimpy, it’s a more cohesive display, preoccupied with how we view the outdoors and ‘scenic’ vistas. No interiors, tents, tile patterns or pot plants this time. Instead we see lush green images of bush clad hills and waterfalls, or rocks being surrounded by the advancing tide.

The oil paint brushwork is also more compact, with a drier, slightly encrusted surface without sheen. Texture is more apparent - using a sharper, more synthetically hued palette that is less earthy or ochry, that is cool not warm.

Henis’ fixation on texture results in a strangely stilted quality here, a rigidity of form that accompanies the dominant foliage hues. While consistent, this display doesn’t reach the highs of the somewhat uneven Newcall exhibition. It exploits clichéd subject matter to concentrate on surface without really advancing beyond the trite. Though full of surprises it is ultimately technique without vision.

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