Art effect

Going to the Art Gallery Te Puna o Whaiwetū is like taking a sideways step out of your life and into contemplation of the creative mind. It can ‘leaven the lump’ – a term I encountered recently in a Scottish novel. At least, it can distract the mind for a while.

This is some of the ceramic art of Cheryl Lucas in an exhibition called Shaped by Schist and Scoria. I puzzled over the work and marvelled at it simultaneously while considering the creative impulses of the woman who had made it. There were pale ceramic shapes draped over wires in another room. Why? I asked myself, (and where would it go when it’s not being exhibited?) while also admiring the shapes and angles and the unexpected use of ceramics – like socks on a washing line.

Another area featured work from the gallery collection curated to show the artists’ use of light. I entertained myself by trying to identify the artists before reading the plaques. This one I didn’t pick as a Rita Angus, but I enjoyed the subject: an aquilegia. Rita Angus’s Goddess of Mercy is a favourite which was also in the exhibition. It is full of light and colour, so this muted watercolour was a surprise and my appreciation of it was heightened by my own enjoyment – and irritation, sometimes – with aquilegias in my garden.

Also known as columbine and granny’s bonnet, once you’ve got them in your garden they appear everywhere, muscling their way into pots and between paving stones and putting down strong, deep roots. Their most delightful features are the unusual spurred shapes and varied colours of the flowers, but also the pale green leaves with their rounded, frilled edges. So it was unusual to see this concentration on just the form of the flower and with only a hint of colour in the leaves. Art helps you see something in a new way. Here it is the form of the plant which is emphasised – against a muddy background (made muddier in this photo by my reflection in the glass).

Over the next few days, the images and the calm of the gallery remain in an illuminated corner of my mind.

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