Degrees of Separation, Neal Palmer

When two nationally recognised artists collaborate for an exhibition, as John Parker and Neal Palmer will be next month (the flowering season of the Magnolia tree), it is an event of interest.  

We will see their interpretations of the magnolia in a new exhibition, ‘Formal Roots’ – a reference to the personal connection for Neal who is English born and also, the formal modernist nature of John’s ceramics. 

Kaye McGarva of Muse Gallery in Havelock North has brought the artists together for the show of new work and for regular visitors their styles of work will already be familiar.  

Neal Palmer produces large hyper-realistic paintings of botanical forms that examine one species in up-close detail; sometimes of native New Zealand plants such as flax, and the magnolia, a favourite subject for the artist. 

He describes the work for this show as being ‘part of a continued investigation into underlying formal structures that exist in nature’ – in this case magnolias. “I have focused on the flower laden branches of the tree, I love the organic lattices the leafless branches create juxtaposed with the soft bulbous flowers” 

As well as the enlarged colour painted views of the magnolia he has included some monochromatic views in which as he describes, “I have formalised the images further in the silhouette/silver-leaf works, turning the forms into flat planes of light and dark. I use silver-leaf as a decorative and conceptual element in my work; it reflects the light and colours surrounding the work and has a natural depth difficult to create with just paint, also, the flatness reflects the true nature of the object (a flat picture plane).”

John Parker is considered to be one of the leading studio potters in New Zealand. His instantly recognisable, precision-turned vessels, usually in black or white/matt or gloss, owe much to the philosphy of European design movements rather than to the craft-based, organic-oriented pottery we are more familiar with in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, John sees himself following in the traditions of being a craft potter. Each piece is hand-made and unique. “I throw and turn all my work on the potter’s wheel. I make ware which is easily recognisable as the classical pottery vessel, bottle or bowl, but my special concern is to push the concepts of these as far as possible into severe minimalism and into the functional/non-functional debate to explore the very essence of defining these ideas.” 

Muse owner Kaye McGarva’s suggested that they show work together. They had a shared exhibition at Queenstown’s Milford Gallery some time ago where they met for the first time and liked the idea of collaborating again. The artists are very interested in each others work, with John expressing an interest in Neal’s colour pallet, indicating that he wants to explore this in his new work for the Muse show.

Look out for ‘Formal Roots’ at Muse Gallery during August.

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