CURATOR Gregory O’Brien PUBLICATION essays Gregory O’Brien, Gerda Leenards
This show pays tribute to Wellington landscape painter Jane Pountney (1949–2004). Her paintings—an evolving romantic meditation on earth, sky, and water, boundaries and crossings—are familiar from earlier City Gallery shows, including Shifting Ground: Six Wellington Artists (1989) and The Figured Landscape (1995). Covering a period from 1987 to 2001, Wade in the Water encompasses the visionary intensity of her large canvases of the 1980s and early 1990s and the subtlety and intimacy of her subsequent work.
Pountney's White Terraces (1992)—from a series of paintings of the magical, mythical Pink and White Terraces—reclaims a site often painted by nineteenth-century landscape artists like Charles Blomfield. It is also a personal record, depicting a landscape with which Poutney was familiar—she remembers finding ash from the 1886 Tarawera eruption that destroyed the Terraces on her family’s farm in Galatea.
Two of Pountney’s late works are included: Eastbourne (2000) and Titahi Bay (2001). Here, subtle modulations of wind and light have replaced the surging energies of sea, land, and weather that characterised Pountney's early paintings, like Open Water and Lovely Thunder (both 1987).
Like Katherine Mansfield before her, Pountney was entranced by the figures she observed on the beach at Eastbourne. When her beach paintings were exhibited at Idiom Studio in 2001, she wrote: ‘The paintings show the moments when the past, present, and future are folded in on one another. When the sun is coming up or going down, or you’re sitting mesmerised in the perfect cocoon of a warm car looking out. I wanted a sense of how tenuous yet beautiful, exciting and sensuous the “now” is’.
Pountney—who also taught high-school art—died of cancer on 30 January 2004. At her request, the Blind Boys of Alabama song ‘Wade in the Water’ is played at her funeral. Pountney’s work is in Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery collections.