John Hurrell – 14 December, 2010
This particular work is not obvious, being subtly creepy with hints of the demonic. The face is pretty but with approaching malevolence, as though a blood-drenched secret is about to become revealed. Others like 'Heavy Heart' seem to be taking head-banger heavy-metal culture and blending it with a granny's sweetness of sugary yellow roses and floppy purple ribbons.
24 November - 23 December 2010
Hot on the tail of his very successful survey of sculpture and painting at Te Tuhi (Hexon Cusp.Decade) comes Silverfish, a new Brendon Wilkinson exhibition at Ivan Anthony. Of fifteen watercolours and one large oil painting. No sculpture.
The images are very similar to the two dimensional purple work of that earlier show, with his characteristically delicate images of young women: their vertebrae and metacarpals peeking through translucent skin, the use of symmetry from ‘doubled’ overlapping compositions, flimsy weblike fabrics of pale intricate line and a generally Gothic feel blended with shamanistic sensibility.
Anthony has presented this sort of death-obsessed Wilkinson exhibition before but this one seems particularly confident. The size and intricacy of many of the watercolours takes your breath away. Wilkinson’s method and subject matter is very distinctive.
In Hexon Cusp. Decade I found the oil paintings a highlight with their dramatically balanced compositions, brooding density of tone and strange hybridity of subject matter. After being so spoilt, having only one oil in Silverfish therefore disappoints, despite the very different sort of attraction that draws one to the watercolours.
Yet what is the appeal of this watery technique? Some of the new works, like a portrait of a wavy-haired, intensely blue-eyed girl looking up at the viewer, seem at first glance to be quite conventional. The image is not obvious, being subtly creepy with hints of the demonic. The face is pretty but with approaching malevolence, as though a blood-drenched secret is about to become revealed. Others like Heavy Heart seem to be taking head-banger heavy-metal culture and blending it with a granny’s sweetness of sugary yellow roses and floppy purple ribbons.
Blending opposites and manipulating audience expectations is Wilkinson’s forte, stirring up emotions of revulsion and horror (around death and decay) with a childhood’s exuberance and love of simple beauty. Our intense feelings get pushed and pulled about in all directions, and so it is the use of the transparent watercolour medium - with its delicate base of innocence, its blossomy freshness and vulnerability - that is the point, the key to the work’s success.
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