I REMEMBER the quiet, hypnotic power of the landscapes of Peter Boggs when he exhibited his paintings with Anne von Bertouch about 30 years ago.
Now we can all bask in that muted colour and windless mystery in the survey exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery until August 30. How surprisingly small the paintings are, considering the weight of memory. How significant that it is the manmade landscape he paints, not the wilderness of the sublime.
The centuries-old Boboli Gardens in Florence are a refuge for art-sodden tourists, though their claustrophobically towering hedges, shadowy steps and classical busts have their own mystery.
For Peter Boggs, they conceal secrets as the intersecting pathways invite choices. They become metaphors for quiet reflection on life's journey, a golden moment amid light and shade. There are no grand vistas, only a promise of discovery.
More recent paintings of silent deserted interiors also suggest a hidden human presence. They too build up a depth of association by subtle variations in viewpoint, accumulating dreamlike significance for distant doorways.
There is an intentional resonance with paintings from the gallery's own collection hung nearby. All feature interiors, with Grace Cossington Smith's bedroom redolent with golden familiarity and Brian Dunlop's blowing curtain suggesting a sudden passing, unlike the serene mystery of the Boggs' paintings, which seem frozen in time.
Boggs' garden works remind us that the manmade landscape has been the theme for several major Australian painters, often theatrically lit. Think of Rick Amor's dark wordless narratives in suburban settings or Clarice Beckett's misty roads and telegraph poles, while Jeffrey Smart's urban fringes take silence and stasis into surreal territory.
- BY chance, two photographic exhibitions at Newcastle Art Space until July 5 take film on innovative paths.
Michael Randall is well known for a sort of surrealist portraiture. He pairs heads, faces and hands, often blankly white, with a variety of unexpected objects from the natural world. Rose petals colour the side of a head. Sleek black feathers suggest the feral. Seaweed makes a spine. A parasitic epiphyte replaces a face. These simple juxtapositions set up psychological as much as visual tensions, portraits of states of inner life as well as games of role playing.
Role playing is central to Jorg Lehmann's elaborately re-enacted pseudo film stills; atmospherically lit and appropriately costumed recreated versions of classic black and white crime films of the 1940s and '50s, all crumpled trench coats and sultry glances, but without cigarette smoke.
Many collaborators are involved, but Lehmann's lighting and direction is the pivot. He has worked on these studio-based storyboard projects over the years in California and Melbourne.
He has worked as a professional photographer, but now in Newcastle for a rather different day job, he will no doubt attract hordes of film hopefuls to undertake the staging of an episode of Newcastle film noir. What fun!
- AT Art Systems Wickham until June 28 are recent works that play layering games with abstract forms.
Alison Smith is known for her elaborate woodblock prints, often successively cutting back into the same timber block to create several images in different colours, an exacting technique employed by the great Japanese printmakers.
In the current work she replaces recent rigidly architectonic subjects in solemn colour with curving biomorphic elements in summery pastels, with the translucent overlayering reminding the viewer of the arduous process involved.
Works on paper by Ahn Wells also suggest rounded shapes in apparently spontaneous pattern making. This is a big surprise, a major change in direction from the monochrome pricked or sewn exercises in restrained minimalism that have marked her art practice over many years.
Bold colour contrasts and painterly gesture must be liberating for her, a creative aspect of a very busy new career setting up and running her recently opened gallery at 139 Beaumont Street.
- AMANDA Donohue has her first solo exhibition at Timeless Textiles, combining her printmaking background with a variety of fabric and embroidery techniques. Maritime inspiration appears in swirling waters and solemn friezes of fish on recycled fabric. Mermaids would seem to inhabit a different order of being.