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Let there be Light

A review of Anne Marie Verbeeks recent paintings

Roar Gallery, Wellington
22 January  –  7 February 2009

 

Let there be light is a bold imperative; the exhibition that wears this title reflects this boldness in colour and theme.  Anne Marie Verbeek's characteristic thick application of oil is just one aspect of a general sense of joie de verve embodied in the work, despite its sometimes grisly content.  Happy Prince (sad) (2008) typifies the general palette; dominated by fevered scarlet, strong acidic yellow and black, it exalts in the relationship between colour and light and reveals the co-dependency of light and darkness.  In works such as Light of the World (2008) or Victory over Death: Elijah's Altar at Mt Carmel (2008) the striking violence of the colour reminds us of light's capacity to blind, to stun to bewilder, in equal measure to its ability to reveal and clarify and nourish.

The exhibition, at Wellington's Roar Gallery, features 18 of Verbeek's recent oil paintings.  'Sometimes it's about things visible, sometimes things unseen, and sometimes it's just about paint.  I love the physical quality, even the smell of oil paint', says the artist 'you could say it is my song'.  Certainly, in works such as John the Baptist (on a plate) (2008) the physical qualities of paint are very evident, while the darker side of the work literally stares us in the face. 

Bird and Ladder (2008) is both one of the simplest works in the exhibition and one of the strongest.  Klee-like in its two-dimensionality and basic motifs, the limited colour range - blue, red and green - simplifies it still further, and the forms become almost reduced to pattern.  The bird and ladder dominate the ground in this small work, seemingly very earthbound forms.  And yet both take our thoughts to places above the ground; they suggest that looking up is all it takes to locate the source of light and colour.

 

Reviewed and written by Abby Cunnane.

 

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