TERRAIN

It’s hard to avoid landscape in New Zealand – practically and conceptually. One doesn’t have to move far from home before you find yourself ‘in’ it, forced to negotiate its edges and ravines, its clifftops – allow for its wild meteorological flux, accept its emptiness, respect its geological rawness, and simply get to grips with its simultaneous offerings of pleasure and risk. Then if you plan to spend any time in it, you are compelled to acknowledge something of its deeper symbolic loadings, knowing that its darkness can be significant, and invites a physical and psychological vulnerability.

These provocations are not completely peculiar to New Zealand of course. For each of the artists in this exhibition, choosing to respond to landscapes inescapable presence,

either as a painter or photographer, gives them the opportunity to confront the allure and fear, the sense of significance that the landscape generates. 

I have resisted making an exhibition about landscape (painting especially) for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there are simply so many awful depictions of landscape in goopy material and dashy brushstrokes (I grew up with a few of them) that I have always sought out art that nourishes other aesthetic notions in my mind. Secondly, I have long felt that being in the landscape and all that that involves – the heat, the chill, the buffeting wind, the light – eclipses any experience one can achieve through its depiction, whatever the facility. This is fundamentally still how I feel.

There have been some fine landscape painters in New Zealand – not surprisingly, the best of them have always used the landscape as a lens through which they can examine a wider, more complex human condition, so that whilst the subject may appear to be the contours of the land, the content may be much more – how do we find a place to exist (in it).