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Herb Foley “It’s what I do”

“It’s What I Do” opens with a Preview on Tuesday 5th Sept, from 5.30pm. The exhibition is on view until 23rd September 2017 Paintings, drawings, sketches an ...

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“It’s What I Do” opens with a Preview on Tuesday 5th Sept, from 5.30pm. The exhibition is on view until 23rd September 2017

Paintings, drawings, sketches and other artworks focusing on our flora and fauna have a long and enduring history, but the subject matter has never been more relevant than it is today.  From a New Zealand standpoint our landscape is a major asset and selling point for tourists and prospective immigrants.  That’s not changed since the first settlers were enticed here by the New Zealand Company’s romanticised paintings depicting a utopian landscape with rolling green hillsides, misty inlets, azure blue bays and bushy enclaves. What has changed however is the integrity of our environment and the flora and fauna within.

A book published in 1889, “The Forest Flora of New Zealand” lists 142 native trees, several of which could be extinct or are now seriously under threat, particularly our iconic “kauri”. Environmentalists, nature lovers and artists have highlighted not only the beauty and fragility of our flora, fauna and waterways, but the serious threats these treasures face from not only housing developments, but fallout from primary and tertiary industry and disease.

Herb Foley acquired a greater affinity with the North Island bushscape following a move to Kerikeri after the Christchurch earthquakes where he rented a house in the bush.  “It was wonderful. I wanted to paint squares of bush, as I call them with every shape that was there.  I nearly always work from my environment using the pattern and shapes it contains, abstracted and simplifying.  The secret is it must work as a painting”.

Foley is a master of chiaroscuro, conveying dappled light which he effects with paint splatters and a subtle earthy palette.  There appears a distinct fauvist element to many of Foley’s paintings particularly in “Shapes” and “Growing.  There may also be a nod to Gauguin and Rousseau in Foley’s work as well, as the paintings depict a jungle-like or primeval forest setting, particularly in paintings such as “Light and Dark” and “Growing #2”.  The scenes presented are places the viewer has never seen before, a place possibly untouched or even unexplored, an environment not unlike that which the first settlers and early explorers to New Zealand would have been confronted with.

In this exhibition Foley has added to the legacy many visual artists are establishing in the 21st century by celebrating, re-evaluation and highlighting the beauty and significance of our natural bush and surroundings.  We will leave the last word to the artist who says “I feel I paint the most important subject matter there is”.


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