Painting by Clayton Gibson: Potae and Kina

From the Bay to the Mountains

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Ken Nysse & Clayton Gibson /
27 May - 8 June 2019 /
Hastings Community Arts Centre /
By Jess Soutar Barron 

Enter on the left: the show begins with two strident pou from Gibson and a work that suggests a tekoteko at the helm of this whare whakairo. The story that then unfolds within takes a single simple motif from the sea and elevates it to a moment of devotion.

There’s such a clear and controlled statement here that follows this one kina from its most simplistic execution – set against a series of jet taniko patterning – through a telling that extrapolates the trope from beachcomber’s find to national symbol of fragility and endurance.

The palette, which sets soft moss and kelp against brash primaries, and the forms, explore an abstraction of nature while sympathetically depicting objects in a hyper-realistic style. Potae and Kina and Kina on Korowai are of particular note. What is not said, through white space left untouched, is as telling as what is. There is a tension that makes the viewer hungry for more, as if there are discoveries still to be made.

This thread peters out only towards the end of the journey, as if the artist has struggled finally against white walls and the need to fill in those blank spaces. It’s a hesitant conclusion to what is otherwise a strident showing of work. It’s here that two early works from Gibson throw off the narrative and the tight and disciplined showing becomes a non-committal retrospective.

Sense is made only when one views these works in conjunction with the final piece in Ken Nysse’s supporting collection to the right of the gallery. There, a tiny family of bright figures walk away into snow, only to appear again on the other side of the gallery, here, in summer, on the beach.

Nysse’s works stretch from a home to home-away-from-home as the artist explores landscapes of pleasure and recreation, of familiarity and turangawaewae. The brazen use of colour and strong blocking delivers a technicolour rendering that hints at holiday snap and postcard brightness. There is no edge here, nothing cynical or mysterious, these works are sheer celebration, fully satisfying, saccharine and abundant.

The obvious adoration Nysse has for his surroundings is infectious, his works all encompassing in scale and dynamism. The true gift of the show is the way the two artists and their collected works play and chime off each other. They manifest a sense of mutual appreciation between the the painters, and a shared love of place and practice. This collaboration of creativity is perhaps the boldest thing in the room, with each maker holding their own while leaving space for the others works to be examined and considered.

Together the artists present a show that’s a true panacea for SAD bringing summer and the coast into the heart of Hastings on the edge of winter.

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