John Hurrell – 26 September, 2010
Rae's oil paintings I generally am not enthusiastic about. Her still lifes I find too bourgeois and conventional an idiom for a treatment of contemplated objects. However her charcoal drawings of uninhabited office spaces have a chilly melancholy that makes me sit up. Gone is the ingratiating sheen of fetishised surfaces to be lingered over. These drawings make you nervous. They have a temperature dropping mood you can psychologically enter, as well as the volume of the room.
James Casebere, Callum Innes, Helmut Federle, and Jude Rae
14 September - 9 October 2010
This current group show presents ten mainly new works from four old names at the Jensen Gallery, but displaying subtle shifts and some unexpected common areas. Breaking it down, there are four Casebare photographs, three Innes paintings, two Federles and one Rae. The Rae charcoal drawing fits perfectly with the Casbere’s photographs. Both deal with the nuances of cool morning light within austere architectural interiors.
Rae’s oil paintings I generally am not enthusiastic about. Her still lifes I find too bourgeois and conventional an idiom for a treatment of contemplated objects. However her charcoal drawings of uninhabited office spaces have a chilly melancholy that makes me sit up. Gone is the ingratiating sheen of fetishised surfaces to be lingered over. These drawings make you nervous. They have a temperature dropping mood, based on loss, you can psychologically enter - as well as the volume of the room.
Not only is their pale grey light startlingly ominous, like a shot in a sixties Bergman or more recent Lynch movie, but the lack of ornamentation seems admonishing - as if pleasurable pattern might corrupt. Though she is interested in an uncomplicated examination of light raking across vertical and horizontal planes, there is also a strong sense of tragedy, that these buildings (Victoria Chambers in Dunedin) have seen better days. Yet dilapidation is alluded to, not explicitly described. The light is bleary, but we don’t see dirt or disintegration.
James Casebere’s photographs of flooded cellars or underground sewers use plaster and cardboard models with viscous golden varnish that distorts floor tile patterns and even suggests they might be bending and bursting. However the streaky light on the smoothly undulating upper surfaces of the peaking arches, or ‘water’ covered gridded floors is the main attraction. Gently caressing light seems to be the point of interest, yet in Casebere’s hands the pouring of liquid to inundate ‘old’ spaces seems to be a metaphor for violent historical change, cataclysmic social upheaval. It also might just be the translucent horizontal form and general evocativeness that appeals.
The two painters in this show have a strong sense of a considered divided picture plane - combined with an awareness of surface sheen. Federle’s small paintings have an elegance built around a landscape ‘I-Beam’ format akin to both Colin McCahon forms and Ted Bracey colours, especially with their quickly brushed - but precise - dark khaki-greens overlaid with streaky battleship grey.
Innes of course, is unlike Federle in that he is famously subtractive and not additive with his paint. And in these works often horizontal paint application underlies the removal of an upper or over layer - with inky velvety edges where vertically stroked turps has eaten the differently hued layers of oil away.
The three works by Innes here feature different vertical subtractive treatments. One is upon a long vertical sheet of heavy brown paper with a horizontal oblong (the remains of the bigger original painted rectangle) at the top. Another has the diluted paint streaming down the lefthand block and running over the white primer on the lower part of the canvas, but not obviously on the area where paint was removed. The third has the vertical cascades running along the bottom edge of the lefthand block and on the block itself, implying mysteriously that the original layer providing those trickles might have been positioned on the upper section of white primer, but that now all evidential hints of residue have gone.
Cimmerian Shade is a fine exhibition that is probably too loaded towards Casebere and insufficient with Rae. Nevertheless all the works repay prolonged attention. Well worth visiting.
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