Jan FitzGerald & Beneath the Static

3-15 July 2017 – Arts Inc. Heretaunga

Arts Inc. Heretaunga has two exhibitions running at their airy and bright gallery on Russell Street South, Hastings.

Downstairs holds Jan FitzGerald’s untitled exhibition featuring mixed media illustrations of birds and wildlife. FitzGerald’s work seems to live at two ends of a spectrum – at one end her illustrations of birds and beasts feature wild and dynamic ink strokes splashed over gridded, almost digital, daubs of bright colour that bring the subjects to life. There is real movement and abandon to the mark making. At the other end lie her larger more intricate illustrations like Montage I & II and the exquisite Flight. These feature incredibly detailed, monochrome ink drawings. Native birds swoop and dive across the paper, intertwined with traditional Māori design elements. Tight little patterns and dot work tie everything together in beautiful union. For me these are the highlights of this exhibition. The contrast and white space draw the viewer in, every look shows you a new and fascinating detail.

Up the sweeping central staircase is a very different show altogether. Beneath the Static is “a joint artistic exploration reflecting the artists’ personal journeys with mental health.” The show features work by Maxine McClenaghan and Mary Bagnall. Anyone who has ever been affected by mental illness can find something to relate to in these paintings. Both artists have different approaches to the subject, but both manage to convey feelings of anxiety, anger, helplessness and hope in these works.

Mary Bagnall has a painterly style. Her colour work is bold and vibrant; her clever use of metallic paint brings in colour and light to her monochromatic pieces. A mix of metaphor and literal subjects make this exhibition a little disjointed for me. I felt there might have been a thread that wove each piece together but I lost it when I came to Heretaunga – Hawke’s Bay a beautiful graphic work, with layers or muted colour. It was my favourite of Bagnall’s pieces but it felt somehow out of place beside the metaphoric crocodile and rainbow-haired goddess. Still there was something to feel in each of her paintings and something of beauty in each thing.

Maxine McClenaghan’s paintings are a wonderful cacophony of colour, surrealism, drama and emotion. I am not normally a fan of whimsical surrealism but even in the darkest of subject matters you can see the joy in McClenaghan’s work. All the paintings feature animals, birds, girls and quite a lot of teacups! There is an undefinable feeling a painting gives you, a spark of the painter that makes you look just a little longer, think a little more and for me these works have it. My favourite was probably the strangest of the bunch, Something’s not quite right, is a portrait of our inner negative thoughts, the chimera – part women, part flamingo – is such a weird beast but regardless its weirdness is joyful and bold and I was drawn to it instantly.


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