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, March 26, 2010

Superb paintings

Johl Dwyer & Schaeffer Lemalu: Milk waterfall
A Centre for Art
16 March - 3 April 2010

Here we have five paintings by two very different artists in a somewhat small space. Two textured and gestural panels are by Dwyer, one of which is much much bigger than all the others. Lemalu’s works on the other hand are ‘minimal’, and all about delicate and faintly detectable colour fields.

Lemalu’s three small ‘white’ canvases emphasise concentrated perception, and are subtle indeed. So much so that the degree of soft natural light through the Wellesley St window in the afternoon seems to be crucial to grasping the processes behind their production, as does where you stand to one side. He has applied gouache to their surfaces and later washed it off. In fact he has soaked it in water, scrubbed it off and then restretched the canvas. Sometimes he has put a more paint on its surface a second time, and left it.

His colour is so understated that you wonder if it is an afterimage you are looking at. Some floating yellow blur, a hint of a chromatic smudge that comes perhaps from you looking at something dark or saturated. A couple of the gallery walls are a wooden ochre brown, and that affects your perception of the two works’ overall rectangular surface. They seem tonally at odds with the work on a white wall.

Dwyer’s paintings are extremely different from Lemalu’s in their wild tactility and traces of dramatic hand movement. They incorporate glued-on rectangles of painted canvas or plastic vinyl, and lots of scraped on modeling paste that has left ripped horizontal ‘gashes’ as you might often see in a Gerhard Richter painting. The work is very physically layered, with tiny dark Christopher Woolish squiggles, sweeps of sprayed colour and intricate David Reed smears. One work is quite sculptural, with thick zigzagging lines of solid blue paint squeezed straight out of the tube.

These two artists make a great combination because the juxtaposition of such opposite methodologies is so refreshing. This dynamic creates an exceptionally exciting painting show, and probably the best show I’ve seen at ACFA. It may be one of the best ever local painting shows in Auckland as well.

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