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Rachael Dewhirst

“Sense of Wonder”

17th April - 5th May 2018

Warwick Henderson Gallery

Level 1, 255 Broadway, Newmarket, Auckland

Ph: 09 522 8696, E: info@warwickhenderson.co.nzW: www.warwickhenderson.co.nz

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“Pour”, 145 x 140cm

Poetry renders the ordinary extraordinary, seeing the unfamiliar in the familiar.

- Norman MacCaig

In her newest series, Sense of Wonder, Christchurch-based artist Rachael Dewhirst takes

inspiration from the wilder landscapes around New Zealand, and her work titles - “Es- cape”, “Roam”, “Sojourn” – all allude to an intrepid journey away from the urban city. In

a style typical of the series, “Pinnacle” presents us with a stark blue and white peak that

dominates the image, where rivers of white and blue paint meet before running down

the length of the canvas. The mountain sits amid sections of energetic colour, bands of

rhythmic stripes, brush blobs and crudely shaped yellow grasses. Likely an ode to Mount

Taranaki, or another of New Zealand’s great mountains, the abstract image and gestural

paint strokes convey the harsh winds and unforgiving terrains in a surreal cut-and-paste

environment, perhaps drawn from a coarse memory, or a feeling conjured by the imagina- tion and captured in paint.

“Escape”, 50 x 45cm

“Roam”, 50 x 45cm “Sojourn” , 50 x 45cm

“Front Cover Image - “Billow” , 1405 x 140

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Across the series, unexpected rhythmic junctions of colour, line and form come together

in a dreamlike vision. In “Sojourn”, for example, churning reds, blues and yellows hold

floating pockets of landscape views and flowerbeds, as though opening up visions into

alternate realms. Sitting somewhere between abstraction and representation, Dewhirst’s

paintings dance between the real and surreal, imagination and reality. She acknowledges

that “a lot happens by chance,” and there is a spirit of playfulness and an excitement in fol- lowing and interpreting her unique vision of the New Zealand terrain.

“Splash”, 65 x 81cm

Each of the works in this series makes use of the canvas as an area for investigation into

paint practice. Translucent washes meet graphic line work, and loose gestural brush- strokes collide with areas of fine and precise detail. A large-scale painting “Pour” gives

centre-stage to a watery blue pigment, sliding over the canvas to interact with the varied

colours on the surface. Dewhirst’s new series is, however, more subdued, muted and

muddy in colour, forgoing some of the vibrancy of her work following a trip through

France. This palette instead reflects an earthy and isolated colour scheme of lands less

touched, reminiscent of Sir Toss Woollaston and the artists of early New Zealand

modernism.

In his Surrealist Manifesto, French poet André Breton called for an abandonment of logic

in the arts, whereby operating without rules or guides, one could arrive at something en- tirely new. Similarly, Dewhirst’s series hands control over to a certain automatism, a

collaboration of both conscious and unconscious effort. In this way, the components of

her image translate as visual metaphors, where a rippling line of paint might indicate a

mountain, but also the moment of amazement in beholding its view. Here, Dewhirst’s

sweeping, swirling microcosms follow a new visual system, giving autobiographical

interpretations to intangible memories, moods, feelings and experiences – a pictorial

language expressly optimistic, uncompromisingly personal and wholly poetic.

Text James Anderson, April 2018

“Pinnacle” , 50 x 45cm “Ramble” , 50 x 45cm

“Milky Way” , 50 x 45cm “Palmy Nights” , 50 x 45cm