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.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Forty years on

Darryn George / Shane Cotton / Ralph Hotere: Black to Black
Gow Langsford
16 September - 10 October 2009

In this mixture of primary and secondary selling opportunities through sampling almost three generations of Maori painters we see three Georges, three Hoteres and one Cotton.

The solo Cotton looks odd in this company because of its colour, figurative imagery, and number. The Georges seem grandiose and pompous. Too much extended shiny black surface and not enough substance. But the Hoteres. They are a very good reason to visit this show. Forty years old they look like they were just made yesterday. Impeccable. Made when this artist was at his peak. He used the influence of Ad Reinhardt to create, via added glowing linear colour, something remarkable.

His three works are so compact, and devoid of pretension. The one with the Manhire text of ‘Melody’ organised in a vertical column on the left - with alternating words of dark blue and matt black - has vertical tear-like, cascading coloured lines as a foil on the right.

Hotere's lacquer on board work with subdued circle and vertical lines is also worth spending time with - due to its remarkable gloss and impenetrable depth. It is thankfully free of the buffing that ruined (in my view) many of his similar works – such as those in Taranaki.

The third one, a warmer grey-black work with delicate, pulsing concentric circles is a treat too. There is something about the fineness of the curved, arching lines and knocked-backed hues that thrills. Christchurch Art Gallery have one that is very similar.

The Gow Langsford catalogue notes for this show talk a great deal about McCahon, but McCahon when glossy was never pristine - always gritty. Hotere with his industrial lacquer was quite different. New Zealand art was never to be as pure as this again.

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