Soft in Colour and Handling
WEEKEND HERALD, Saturday 25 June 2016
Isolated young men take thought in moody, atmospheric paintings
The atmospheric works by Elizabeth Rees in Juncture show no particular place. The paintings, with one exception, show a solitary figure of a young man in a landscape that includes a vivid twilight sky, a misty mass of bush and lake or river. Against this, with a shadowed face and a bent, thoughtful head, stands the young man in a jacket whose stance is irresolute. The title of the show and of individual works: ‘Crossroads’, ‘Passing Through’ or ‘Silent Dream’, reinforce the impression of this pensive irresolution.
Man alone is a recurring New Zealand trope but the figures in these paintings are not alienated. They are part of the landscape and collaborate with it. It seems they are lost, not dramatically but in mind. What links them with the landscape is the rich palette of ochre and blue and the skilful handling of the paint with a whole vocabulary of quiet touches that effectively convey the colour, the dark and gleams of light in each work.
Some of the detail is emblematic. There is a bridge in the background of ‘Passing Through’ and a shadowy alter ego in the background of ‘The Last Time’. The wide horizon in the background is particularly effective in ‘A Silent Dream’ in suggesting further, wider travelling.
‘Two Friends’ is the one work that somewhat breaks the pattern. It shows two men in earnest talk in a place moody with dusk and a bending reach of river.
The insistence on lack of animation in the figures throughout the show falters only in ‘Crossroads’ where a standing man’s full face becomes a mask, making the head sit oddly on the body. The rest of this sensitively painted exhibition, rich with subtle colour and mood, shows Elizabeth Rees at her imaginative best.