Helmut Federle’s new paintings appear to have set aside the last vestiges of the structural scaffolding that have quietly ‘held’ his compositions over many, many years. Of course Federle’s paintings have long been closer to organicism and poetry than to geometry and calculus. In this sense he is more aligned to Mondrian, to Pollock and the balancing act of intuition and feeling with construction. This openness to adjustment and sensation and to the potential to unearth a deeper organic symbolism is central to what his paintings offer.
With this abandonment of expressed architecture, one might assume that the risks of intuition could lead to an unhealthy dependency on faith and ego. But in Federle, doubt is always next door – not in paintings persistent capacity to be a profoundly poignant communicative tool, nor in his unquestioned capacity to draw that potential out, but in the conceit that faith exists to provide answers when it ought only to quietly ask questions.
I have always understood Federle’s paintings as being fundamentally imbedded in the Northern European Romantic tradition but with these new works one also senses that the Japonism that has percolated in his aesthetic life has emerged as the counterpoint to that inclination.

For those of us raised on the “shaky isles” of New Zealand, Mark Fran­cis’s painting Jericho resembles the exaggerated sweeps of an overly sensitive seismograph whose dramatic peaks and troughs record subterranean volatility. Much of this oscillation is neither felt, seen nor heard, but it’s always there, pulsing away beneath the crust, biding its time, accumulating force.

I must admit that these particular paintings of Mark’s also put me in mind of Joy Divisions seminal album cover for Unknown Pleasures– an album that seemed to completely realign the tectonic plates of contemporary music – taking the dystopian angst of punk and adding a garnish of Brechtian unease and a new refined sense of aesthetics.

Imi Knoebel’s works belongs to the long arc of painting that stretches back, well out the other side of the twentieth century, locating elements of its DNA in Malevich and the inclinations of Suprematism. But Knoebel’s work has long been resistant to a single manifesto. He has established territory that sits happily across the fence lines of Suprematism, Fauvism and De Stijl. In this sense his work is warmly ecumenical rather than restrictive and dogmatic, and this inclusivity lets it roam expansively and freely – with its own structure – more Ornette Coleman than Chet Baker.
Colour has long been the fundamental constituent of Knoebel’s paintings, but this never feels like a fetishistic reverence of colour for colour’s sake. Knoebel’s palette is too wiful, too contradictory, too ventilated. In his hands colour feels like a “live performance” though more electric than acoustic – post Newport ‘63.

The installation also includes new paintings by Matthew Allen and Geoff Thornley.  In DIPTYCH. measure of.., we see Thornley expressing the form of the diptych – a division or rather a partition that is regularly insinuated in his compositions. Here two vertical panels sit in close proximity. Initially one might wonder were they in fact painted as one, but despite the closeness and subtlety of the common tonal range, it is however clear that as much as they belong together, they were painted apart.

Though the vertical fall of each work is made apparent by oscillating bands of opacity and translucency, an architecture that quietly articulates the structure of the paintings, these works levitate. Gravity seems to have them only slightly in its grip. Together they possess a beautifully untethered atmosphere that one might not
normally associate with “terra firma”. In the most unexpected way, they make me think of McCahon’s Jump, less as an action or directive, but more as an experience.

Matthew Allen flirts with the clean edges of formalism. However, his dominant material of choice is graphite – a material that he polishes and burnishes ritualistically and lovingly so that it carries a lustre and responsiveness to light that means its character is always in flux. Sometimes dark and elusive, other moments, shimmery and come hither. These new works with vertical graphite panels set beside softly painted monochrome panels continue a long-held interest in doubling and reflection. These works are especially intimate in scale – head size really, but their raw linen edges are defiantly bulky. These proportions and their impact on how the works sit “at” the wall feel absolutely thought through.