John Hurrell – 11 June, 2014
That ambiguity is part of their attraction. The smallest work, 'Green, purple and orange', is a fire that could be a flower. 'A little more luminosity' could be a building, a ship or a still life. They are calculatedly vague, have abstract components (like floating squares) but a perspectival depth, and delight in the effects of softly glowing light and turbulent gestural underpainting that peeks through gaps in the upper layers.
As the Light Dips
23 May - 28 June 2014
In this exhibition of sixteen oil paintings kick-started by inspirational sentences picked out of favourite pieces of literature, Milli Jannides continues her exploration of themes developed during post-graduate studies in London and Germany. Using a mostly dark blue palette and bristly smeared marks of thinly scumbled pigment and turps washes, her raw brusherly imagery is not based on ‘real’ scenes or drawings but made using the artist’s imagination. Most of it vacillates between the genres of softly lit landscape and still life, while intermittently maintaining connections with New Zealand painting heroes as diverse as McCahon, Hodgkins, Hanly and Maddox.
Unpredictable in compositional structure these variously sized improvised creations are nevertheless elegantly hung in the two linked Hopkinson Mossman galleries. There is no regular spacing but a methodical linear orchestration. As the works are often ambiguous in terms of interpretative possibilities it would be difficult to group them according to figurative content.
That ambiguity is part of their attraction. The smallest work, Green, purple and orange, is a fire that could be a flower. A little more luminosity could be a building, a ship or a still life. They are calculatedly vague, have abstract components (like floating squares) but a perspectival depth, and delight in the effects of softly glowing light and turbulent gestural underpainting that peeks through gaps in the upper layers.
Not all the display is worthy of prolonged attention but four works in particular compellingly hold your interest: two are landscapes (Rubbish dump picture postcard; Pacing around it) and two still lifes (Metal vegetation; There were many stars in the sky). In each of these successful pairs, one work is delicate, agitated and tremulously graphic in its choice of forms, the other chunky, static and brutishly coarse. Stylistically very different as components in chosen couples (my pairings, not the artist’s), but refreshing as thematic groupings.
As Jannides‘ title suggests, flickering light that reveals form is a major preoccupation, along with the planar consequences of obstructing shadow. The mood is mostly nocturnal so the illuminating source is liquid moonlight that seems stroked on with a feather.
Jannides‘ use of different sized canvases is also important as a creator of mood, possibly even more crucial than the dominant colour or use of light. It pulls her audience towards or away from the work on the wall, encourages movement across the room. Her desire to experiment and not be formulaic has also led to some puzzling (more minimal) inclusions - the abstract works being not as successful spatially (too much depth, I think) as the more narrative ones - but it is unusual to see ‘old fashioned’ oil painting under the spotlight. However the works succeed or fail on their image construction, and detectable patterns of intentionality. The selection, though smartly sequenced formally, is somewhat scattered thematically - in terms of genre. I wish it were tighter.
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