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, September 25, 2009

Restrained, even for watercolours

Richard Bryant’s watercolours
Martyn and Rose’s living room
30 August - 20 September 2009 (visits were by appointment)

Both Richard Bryant and Martyn Reynolds are part of the ACFA group, so as Bryant is currently living in London, it made good sense to me when I heard about it, that he was showing some work in Reynold’s Newton flat. Previously I had only seen his paintings in Jan Bryant's section of the PX St. Paul St. painting show, three oil paintings exploring the materiality of collage, with sections of each painting copying pages torn from fashion mags.

After hearing from Martyn that collage still underpins the structure of his friend’s work, these recent, seemingly unrelated, extremely understated watercolours became pretty interesting. In fact preferable to the oil works. The connection though was certainly not obvious.

They were shown pinned up by their corners on the austere lounge walls, or lying flat on a varnished wooden table. Because they were more delicate than delicate, if you happened to own one it would have to be float-mounted. Kept well away from its frame.

There seemed to be two types. One had regularly patterned rhythms on a flat picture plane. The other had a deeper, receding space, using perspective and a vanishing point. Bryant’s project seemed to be all about qualities of edge where the liquid colour and minute granules interacted with shapes formed by the untouched A4 sized w/c paper – particularly with the patterned works. The perspectival pieces often had fields of descending mist where there was less density towards the bottom edge.

This private (semi-public) show is over now, but if you are curious about seeing these minimal but nevertheless intriguing works, you can always yak to Martyn, contactable via the ACFA.


Paula Booker said...

John, your description of these pictorial works duplicates what we can see for ourselves reproduced within blog article. Thanks for adding to that description, a potentially relevant description of the literal social/geographic context in which they were exhibited. I wonder though, do you have any analysis of Richard Bryant's watercolors to add to what is after all a review? The title of your post seems to sum up your analysis…

Congratulations regarding further CNZ support. I look forward to the developments of this site as a forum and reading reviews outside of Auckland more often. I do think good criticism in this country depends on skilled writers and critics to be recognized and commissioned for their work. I enjoy following your blog, but too often I lament the lack of incisive and well reasoned analysis in your short texts.

John Hurrell said...

Fair comment Paula, perhaps it was skimpy. Usually I think up a caption right at the end, so I guess in this case I should have discussed the medium more, inserting something later that had occurred to me after I had initially written the piece.

However determining what 'well reasoned analysis' might be is not at all self-evident. One can seek out associations or tropes, and then launch off into connections with various writers or other artists - the way a very gifted essayist like Allan Smith might do.

Or one can say that a description is actually sufficient, that pointing at formal qualities is perfectly adequate, that elucidating various properties of the experience, its sensations, does the job. And that to go further is blatantly entering fanciful fiction.

Of course I might be accused here of being lazy, but there are occasions when very little needs to be said, and that my role anyway is to provide the first and not the last word. That I hope readers with other insights come to the party and share them.