A review of Mary Horn's latest exhibition
Forrester Gallery, Oamaru
20 June - 9 August 2009
A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken for a specific purpose, to a place of religious or emotional significance. The journey recorded here works on many levels.
The exhibition is downstairs in the lower part of the gallery. It is deep underground and retains a flavour of its previous existence as a vault - a place to keep precious objects. The sensation of walking into this warm and dark space was akin to entering a cave. When I stayed still, the sensor lights went off and I was left with partial views of her work. I truly was in a cave discovering, for the first time, marks made long ago.
Ochre, red, black and white are the predominant colours, with a few panels introducing blue and green hues. White - read as light, is used very effectively. Attention to detail, such as the pigments being hand-ground from local clay, made it very powerful and added an authentic underbelly to her work.
Mary’s paintings are celebratory beginnings, with light and shadow intersecting in provocative ways. They contain clarity in their expression and are insightful. The canvases with their scalloped edges, hung free from restraints cast further shadows. Music accompanying the show sings the entire exhibition into being.
In order to build this body of work Mary read, amongst others; ‘Song of Waiataha’, J K Baxter, John Moriarty and Meister Eckhart. She further developed her experience by undertaking physical journeys to spiritual places in the South Island. In this way she has been able to find her place of standing. I like how, in the accompanying catalogue, she intersperses her own voice amongst the others, with her poetry.
The only thing that didn’t work for me was the titling of the work. In the catalogue, there is writing alongside the pictures that adds depth, making them great meditation pieces; but for the traveller who is passing through, it may be better to title more clearly, as the meaning could be lost.
This is a very small point in an otherwise beautifully scripted exhibition, and I came away feeling refreshed and inspired. A highlight for me was the response of my 17 year old daughter - who is not ‘into’ Christianity. She remarked that she felt a strong presence in the room and felt as if she had been there before.
(Mary exercises her Ministry of Preaching through her art.)
Reviewed and written by Kathryn Taiaroa
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