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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 7. 1969.

Art — Aht and About

page 8


Aht and About

Michael Smither's paintings, at present on view at the Peter McLeavey Gallery, Cuba Street, indicate how much the growing confidence of an artist can reflect in the greater vitality and boldness of his work. Smither uses colours in a full-blooded way so that they seem the most pure, the most rounded; the deep blues and blacks of the rock-pool series, the cool greens and smooth textures of his figure paintings.

He has worked at the pool image in a number of pictures titled the Paora paintings, the largest and most successful of which is Large blue pool with waves invading. Apart from having a beautiful lustre and finish, this picture with its great centre of dark calm water topped by cream-capped waves produces an immediate feeling of threatened security which plumbs the viewer into the contradictary moods of the picture.

Homage to Henri is the fulcrum, and critical picture of the exhibition. It is a combination of the fantasy and the real, in the way the threatening waves are real in the Paora paintings and the fantasy of the wide-eved infant in Smither's pictures of his children. Certainly this picture is the most striking, with much of the sharp-edged clarity so often associated with Binney, and with Rousseau-like foliage and lacking mysticism.

"Large Pool With Waves Invading" — Michael Smither

"Large Pool With Waves Invading" — Michael Smither

The child pictures, full of astonishment and placidity, are grotesquely beautiful in their openness and child-like interpretation of a disproportionate world. These pictures are full of curiosity and acceptance, and Smither's pictures of his family continue a fascinating chronicle of his now familiar household.

Smither produces something of the effect of such painters as Hopper, Kent and Burchfield in the mid-twenties with a tendency to move closer to his subject matter and extract from it by subtle displacement of forms, a mystical quality seen also in the work of Andrew Wyeth, the later American painter who used a kind of super-realism.

New Zealand's thirty year time warp has given us the benefit of a late begining to some of the most experimental and exciting of the art movements. Smither's painting with its bold, imaginative force shows us an artist working on several themes and successfully combining them together This exhibition will continue until May 2.

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There is at present an exhibition entitled "Banners" at the National Art Gallery. For those who like their art reproduced ad infinitum this is a novel way of owning-your-own masterpiece. The multiple Gallery New York, which commissioned the banners from the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company Inc., made a reasonable choice in its selection of brightly coloured, essentially straight-forward works whose "image" could not be impaired by a transformation into overlain felts. Andy Warhol's Tomato Soup label, approximately one hundred times life-size. Ernest Trova's "Falling Man" and several other well known contemporary figures of art and semi-art here join the present day trend towards "multiples" and toward the most mediocre art for the greatest number.

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Two exhibitions by women this week are the paintings of Pamela Searell to be seen at the Rothman's Cultural Foundation and six paintings by Janet Evans at the University Library.

Pamela Searell's subject matter shows the influence of the African countries in which she has lived but the oranges and browns of many of the animal pictures more generally embody the lyrical glen scenes of idyllic English or New Zealand woodlands rather than the energy and force suggested by the African terrain. However her faces or face-masks particularly Ashcrowned and In Mourning show glimpses of the pain and tragedy behind the tribal rituals and the artist has caught the pathos most successfully. A number of rather surrealistic, Dali-style pictures, Reclining Form by the Sea, On the Beach and Reclining Form in the Estuary show the embryonic stages of development but more of a sterile still-life approach.

"Homage To Henri" — Michael Smither

"Homage To Henri" — Michael Smither

Janet Evans is a young New Zealand artist recently returned from England whose work is at present concentrated on rather heavy landscapes. Her deep murky colours are emotionally turbulent and satisfying but as yet she hasn't managed to balance her emotional enthusiasm with technical competence. Her composite landscapes are not so much landscapes as emotional vents and although this is admirable in many ways there is a need, as illustrated by such a painter as Woolaston, to tie down individual expressionism in a more concrete form.

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The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts is holding its Autumn Exhibition at the National Art Gallery from April 1 to May 11 with a great welter of local art.