Artist: John Eaden
25 May – 23 June 2018, SPA_CE Gallery, Napier
By Megan Seawright

John Eaden’s focus on small works of landscapes has steadily built to a comprehensive collection of works and several exhibitions around Hawke’s Bay. These most recent paintings at SPA_CE Gallery convey his strong relationship to Hawke’s Bay and his interest in the stilled beauty of geography.

I find myself walking with John on these journeys; meandering on tracks alongside local rivers and pushing a view to the ocean. These are familiar, transient scenes, the one we recognise as we drive by on the highway looking over to Waitangi Estuary, as we walk at Pākowhai Park, or the Haumoana inlet and Ocean Beach. Giving equity of space and sense to the sky and earth, John’s paintings – and the gallery’s considered installation of the works – frequently position us right there looking from our own height.

There are reoccurring gestures, paring back the landscape romanticism into ‘almost moments’ that allude to abstraction, stylisation, memory. Lines, pushed with gentle manners, become more significant to the eye than the form the line pronounces. I note the odd parallel relations between water and embankment, light and shadow lingering against recollection rather than the scene itself (‘Pakowhai View’).

In this series there are finer foregrounds alongside trademark blotted backgrounds. In places, paint is applied in thinner layers than previously seen, producing settling undertones and a procurement of light.  All is filtered through John’s familiar codes of ochre, mustard and yellow, forest greens and a widened palette of earthen blues and purple – dropping me into cold and peaty water on a breath (‘Waitangi Inlet II’). Greenery slipping into shadows leaving a lucent volume across long horizons and narrowing distances.  Skies often blond with golden hues, like a long satisfying day at the beach, where turning ourselves to view the hills behind already belongs to remembering the day (‘Ocean Beach Skyline’).

In a way, John has caught the essence of place; producing visual evidence of our inner moments of peace, of pause with nature, of time well spent, each a walking point, step by step. There is deep satisfaction to viewing a work that takes you in, that draws you silently alongside the brushstrokes of reminiscence, that feeling, ‘hmmm, I know that place’.

Catch it if you can.  SPA_CE also stockroom John Eaden’s works.

IMAGE: 'Pakowhai View' by John Eaden


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