Under Control


9 February - 10 March 2018

Gretchen Albrecht, Renee Cosgrave, Fu-On Chung, Rohan Hartley Mills, Lauren Winstone

“The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can clarify in paint.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Under Control expands the boundaries of the abstract tradition, at times avoiding arbitrary definitions in favour of interdisciplinary tendencies. There is progression of styles employed but all the artists lean to more intuitive gestural brush strokes and there are many instances of celebratory dialogue between markings, patterns and colours and medium. The exhibition speculates on the function abstraction has in a time where art can be a mobilizing force towards socio-political and socio-cultural values, gender equality and environmentalism. It also acknowledges the persistence of Abstraction in contemporary art practice although at times it has been marginalized.

Renee Cosgrave, (New Zealand born and Melbourne based) and Rohan Hartley Mills, (Melbourne born and New Zealand based) paint mainly on canvas but both have worked directly on walls – a steadfastly expansive, and at times, deliberately juxtaposed practice. On one hand there are provisional arrangements in subtle shades such as Untitled (Light Colours) where pinks and violets meander tentatively over the surface. This contrasts with more formal arrangements of order such as grids and vertical lines where there is a tendency towards bolder and darker colours. Sometimes Mills and Cosgrave embed a conceptual component in works by using leftover or reject paint. It is as if the tradition of abstraction is a territory through which to constantly experiment with colour and form. Fu-on Chung and Gretchen Albrecht also subscribe to this methodology, referencing the vast history of painting from the contemporary perspectives of an emerging and senior artist.  A 1972 work, Pink Cloud over Landscape, by Albrecht is evidence of the beginnings of gestural abstraction in New Zealand and her most recent painting Quartet, 2017 continues to demonstrate her command of the wholly abstract language of paint alongside that of the new generation of artists.  Indeed, these artists use of warped and bowed stripe paintings with their sinewy lines and stained appearance, could easily be related to works from the 1960’s and 1970’s by Albrecht and her contemporaries.  Similarly, Lauren Winstone’s practice of incorporating drawing and painting on ceramic surfaces reveals a sensibility to abstraction through her choices of colour and patterning on rounded but never absolutely perfect forms.

For the viewer, the eye goes where the paint goes, and when movement appears continuous, when ribbons and strokes of colour loop around, so does the responsive eye. The paintings in this exhibition have similar elements; a system, an order, a set of rules, but their modality hinges on the crucial relationship between painted line and colour, balancing order and freedom, the boundary of the stretcher/object, and the limitlessness of paint- paintings generating other paintings, and so on.