Rob McLeod

No Stop, No Pause, No Fast Forward

28 July 2007 - 25 November 2007

No Stop. No Pause. No Fast Forward showcases an array of recent works by one of New Zealand’s most energetic and category-defying painters, Rob McLeod.

McLeod was born in 1948 and lives and works in Wellington. He travelled to New Zealand from Glasgow in 1972 and soon became renowned for abstract paintings whose surfaces he loaded with intricate spatters and squeezes of oil paint. In the two decades since, McLeod has pushed his painting practice outward in every way – on to ever more eccentrically shaped surfaces, on to gallery floors, and even into three dimensions. For McLeod, these shifts of shape are a way to keep painting alive and relevant in the age of the moving image. Indeed, the title of this exhibition is a painter’s pointed reply to the current popularity of video art. McLeod writes, ‘If painting is to compete with other visual media like film, photography, video and installation it needs to do more than sit quietly on a wall…. I want the viewer to engage with my work by looking actively not passively; to look and keep looking; and to respond to familiar images as the painting reveals multiple levels of shared experience. To ask “what is happening?” before asking “what does this mean?” ’

By the 1990s, McLeod’s abstract paintings had become so suggestively shaped that they hardly seemed abstract any longer. And in the 2000s, those shapes finally metamorphosed into the characters that writhe and wriggle across the walls in this exhibition. Among them are versions of the character McLeod calls ‘Mutant Mickey’ – a skeletal and sinister cousin of the more famous cartoon mouse. As well as echoing popular cultural imagery from the twentieth century, these paintings exuberantly connect to a history of the grotesque in painting that reaches right back to Bruegel and Bosch.

Most of the works on show here were produced during McLeod's time as the Mataura Licensing Trust Artist in Residence at The Eastern Southland Gallery,Gore. Among the most telling of them are those he calls ‘the travellers’, paintings equipped with their own wheels and ready to move into spaces normally occupied by sculpture. Since Scottish-born McLeod is himself a traveller to New Zealand, and was a traveller to the south of the South Island, these works could be considered something of a self-portrait. More importantly, they offer an image of his desire to push painting’s tradition into new spaces, but at its own distinctive pace. As he has said, painters must advance ‘their own ways of viewing and representing the contemporary condition and there can be no stop, no pause, no fast forward. You can only watch and help the narrative unfold.’


Toured by Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill, in association with the Eastern Southland Art Gallery, Gore.

« Back to past exhibitions