Garry Currin

Standing in front of Garry Currin’s paintings is an emotional experience.

Currin's landscapes are not allegories conveying meaning through symbolic representation, nor do they seek to imitate reality. Rather they employ, in the fashion of lyrical abstraction, the emotive and expressive qualities of colour, shape and brushwork to capture first the artist's feelings, and subsequently the viewer's. Landscapes appear to be the subject, yet the dark shades, the atmospheric smudges of light and shadow carry a cipher of another world that shifts between experience, memory, and dreaming. Although man is evident he is not present in these landscapes where light plays, shifting and elusive through pale veils, teasing the connections between eye and memory, tempting us to capture the sense of a real place, a real time in the shapes of hills and waterways. Part of the mystery lies in the ambiguity of form, as visual rhythms capture our need to identify evidence of our place in the landscape … a row of fence posts, a road? an abandoned building? … exposed momentarily in the light, landmarks like staging posts in our imagination.

Appreciating that there is 'nothing new under the sun', Currin's search for painterly truth lies in his working processes. He paints, he says, "from the inside out" approaching the energy of the moment listening to the music of Toru Takemitsu (a Japanese composer influenced by the work of John Cage, Claude Debussy and traditional Japanese music). The process of painting, for Currin, is an exploratory sensing rather than a directional questing. The paintings that result from this process enable viewers to step outside themselves and into another world.

Behind Currin's paint application lies a history of New Zealand's art. If we are looking for signs of our painterly traditions then Petrus van der Velden's evocation of the sublime (epitomised in his images of Otira Gorge), or hints of John Gully's somewhat Arcadian landscapes, a certain darkness of the New Zealand psyche implied by Colin McCahon, and even Toss Woollaston's "mountainous scrumblings"[1] mutter quietly behind the scenes.

But in the end Currin's paintings provide us with a visual negotiation of man's subtle and shifting relationships with the land, with history and with our sense of the spiritual.

Catalogue excerpt by Jacqueline Aust


[1] Eggleton, David. "Various Distances Apart." Art New Zealand 38, Winter (2011): p20.

 

 

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