The Brink

6 June 2020 - 18 October 2020

A world of information is contained in the margin between opposing values – dark and light, hard and soft, line and plane, text and image for example.  This exhibition uses the permanent and loan collections of Dunedin Public Art Gallery to consider contrast as both a formal and conceptual device, and how artists have harnessed this push and pull across a range of creative practices.

John Reynolds’ The view from the top of the cliff (2019) and Let be Let be (2019) set up this notion of oppositional forces – one propelling the viewer into its atmospheric depths, while the other drawing us up short with a flat, white picture plane scrawled with Reynolds’ meandering mind maps.  They are works that strike up a natural conversation with paintings such as Seraphine Pick’s Untitled (White Bags) (1995), Oaia and Clouds (1975) by Colin McCahon, and Peter Robinson’s Self-titled (1997). In Untitled (White Bags) Pick uses a deliberate lack of contrast to create a void, or sense of isolation in her work. Both McCahon and Robinson take the opposite tack, using a strong black/white contrast as their central compositional tool. In Self-titled, Robinson pushes beyond tonal contrast, also using an extreme scale relationship to manipulate text, meaning and association.

Hinging upon the alchemy of light exposure, photography has an inherent connection to the contrast between light and dark. Photographic works by Peter Peryer, Christine Webster and Gordon Walters each demonstrate the different ways in which the artists have successfully used light and lens. In the case of Walters, these photographs acted as experimental compositional studies that fed into his career-long interest in oppositional relationships. These organic compositions find a formal parallel in Julia Morison’s Fair and gay goes Lent away (2005), with its sinuous, ribbon-like forms looping across the flattened picture plane. This manipulation of the tension between line and plane is also reflected in Ralph Hotere’s Requiem (1973), where the eye is drawn between passages of painterly brushstrokes, hard edged lines of colour, and expanses of black gloss.

Speaking across time, medium, and material, the artworks in The Brink offer a range of understandings into how artists have harnessed the formal properties of contrast. Together, they plot a course that reveals both the infinite variety of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery collection as well as the many meeting points that arise between this diverse collection of artists.

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