ARTISTS Catherine Bagnall, Jeff Brown, John Drawbridge, Stephen Hemmens, Robert McLeod, Michael Nicholson, Sophie Saunders, Barbara Strathdee CURATOR Allan Smith PUBLICATION essay Allan Smith
Local Colour gathers the work of eight Wellington painters around a loose theme—colour. Works date from 1970 to 1995. In the catalogue, curator Allan Smith says, 'Colour is sensed, intuited, and experienced before it is fully understood.'
John Drawbridge's Sea and Sky Mural (1973) is presented prominently on the end wall, anchoring the show. Michael Nicholson's canvases translate music into colour and geometry. Sophie Saunders’s modernist facets explore the psychological dimension of colour. Stephen Hemmens's canvases depict scrapped and blurred objects. Jeff Brown's stippled, expressionist brushstrokes hark back to Monet and Van Gogh. Catherine Bagnell revels in impasto.
Robert McLeod—an influential art teacher at Wellington High School—presents shaped painted plywood constructions that exemplify his 'no bullshit approach to painting'. They resemble organic, amoeba-like forms. He tells the Dominion, 'The dividing line between ugly and beautiful is very fine and I've had to tread that line’, concluding that he'd rather people hated his work than ignored it.
The works are mostly abstract. However, Barbara Strathdee's Somewhere in Our Historical Memory: Patapata (1990) contains a stylised rendering of a Māori war-canoe prow, inviting a cultural-political reading.
In the Evening Post, James Mack writes, 'This is a strange show—the juxtapositions it makes are downright peculiar, but in the midst of this brightly coloured melange there is some wonder.'
The show is opened by Councillor John Gilberthorpe who tells the crowd, 'Galleries should not be at the whim of politicians.' (Management of the Gallery has just shifted from Council to Wellington Museum Trust.)