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Quatrefoil

A review of Peter Healy's recent exhibition

Thistle Hall, Wellington
March 30 – April 5 2009

 

Ecology, spirituality, and geometry are the key concerns around which Peter Healy’s recent practice revolves. These long-term interests are manifested colourfully in the eighteen pieces that make up ‘Quatrefoil’ at Wellington’s Thistle Hall. The work stands as homage to Max Gimblett, New York based New Zealand painter whose practice has dominated the quatrefoil form since the early 1980s. Peter has also been working with the quatrefoil for some years, drawn to it through an interest in sacred geometry, the universal, and the work of Max Gimblett.

Many writers have noted that the quatrefoil’s shape prevents the viewer from reducing what it contains to pure surface. Rather, as Gimblett has pointed out, it is produced by four overlapping, united circles. Though the edge of the painting may be considered an outline, it actually contains four layered surfaces, conflicting with one another. Affixing glass beads on to the wooden surface and complicating its perceived flatness, Healy explores this idea in several works such as Vermillion Quatrefoil, and Circle of Deep Time.

Healy is by no means the first to be intrigued by the quatrefoil form, nor does he pretend to be. He uses it here as quotation rather than innovative statement, continuing an ancient symbolic narrative relating to the architecture of the church in contemporary life. His content spans the local, as in Raumati Quatrefoil and Paua Nebula, to the universal in works such as Four Elements Quatrefoil and Supernova Gold Quatrefoil.

An interest in ecology is also evident. Paralleling the cosmos with the backyard view, he suggests the significance of the local, the small moment within a larger system. Implicit in this is a strong desire for rational order; these questioning works seem to seek the impossible, an answer that is at once logical, absolute, and beautiful.

 

Reviewed and written by Abby Cunnane

 

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