City Gallery

Past exhibition

Off the Wall

23 October–29 November 1987

ARTISTS Malcolm Benham, Jack Forrest, Robert McLeod PUBLICATION essay Ian Wedde

Off the Wall showcases three Wellington artists who push the traditional boundaries of painting. Malcolm Benham, Jack Forrest, and Rob McLeod turn painting into something sculptural—sometimes literally taking painting off the wall. The flyer explains, 'A unifying characteristic of their paintings is the break with the confines of the rectangle and frame and the quality of relief attained by physical protrusions from the two-dimensional surface.’ Off the Wall is instigated by City Gallery staff member and artist Michael Cubey, a former art student of both McLeod’s and Forrest’s.

McLeod is the best known of the three, renowned for his colourful, expressionist paint treatments. He presents two new uncharacteristically minimalist series. His Industrial Memories and Buchanan series contain large and small shaped canvases set one another and the wall. In the Evening Post, Wedde calls them, 'opaque and secretive’.

Forrest's works are made from timber bandaged in hessian strips, dipped in dyed plaster of Paris. Forrest often also bleaches the finished works with Janola. Built out from the wall, his works cast shadows. Their jesting titles—like Bend Over Bunter, The Crack, and Cock O' the Walk—are also 'off the wall’. 'On a pop art foundation he has built a rococo of carnival abstractions,' writes Rob Taylor in the Dominion.

Artist and interior designer, Benham presents assemblages made from wrecked car panels. For Ambush, he suspends three painted sections of a car from the gallery ceiling to create a receding perspective effect. In the Evening Post, Wedde says Benham's work has a 'disposable and nomad air.'

The trio have been dubbed as 'the Wellington School’, but the regional connection is cursory. McLeod is from Glasgow and Forrest from Lancashire. Benham is the only one born and bred in Wellington where he also manages his own designer restaurant, Inc. In the catalogue Forrest says, 'The thing we have in common right now is the show.'

For the catalogue, Wedde writes a theoretically dense essay: ‘Soft Paradigms: Reading against the Grain with Malcolm Benham, Jack Forrest, Robert McLeod’. A thirty-minute documentary video of the artists preparing for the show is produced by Cottage Video.