ORGANISER Dunedin Public Art Gallery OTHER VENUES Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 26 February–8 May 2005
Gretchen Albrecht is one of New Zealand’s most famous abstract painters. The Auckland artist’s work develops out of American abstract painting—abstract expressionism, colour-field painting, and minimalism. Returning traces her path since 1981, her year in Dunedin as Hodgkins Fellow, when she begins making the half-circle canvases—called, suggestively, Hemispheres—which have become her best-known and signature works.
Albrecht’s early Hemispheres fuse the lessons of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis (being stained as much as painted) and Frank Stella (his Protractor works, with their semi-circular supports). In her early Hemispheres, paint the artist’s reach. Some of these works are diptychs, with two quarter-circle canvases often painted in contrasting colours, and butted together. Shape is literal not represented—being provided by edges of the canvases.
Albrecht continues to explore the possibilities of the hemisphere but also moves into oval-shaped canvases. In these later works that she begiis often sponged on, in movements that simultaneously follow the shape of the canvas and indexns to explore the effects of overlaying flatly painted rectangles and narrow bars onto painterly grounds.
While Albrecht is always thought of as a colourist, Returning shows that her gestural approach is equally powerful in monochrome. This is exemplified by several elegiac meditations on the death of her father—sombre but potent works in blacks, whites, and greys. The show also explores Albrecht’s use of scale, including small paintings on wood and copper, where she engages in the grain of timber and the splotch and speckle of patinated metal.