Solander Gallery: Works on Paper is Wellington’s contemporary works on paper gallery. I have a soft spot for printmaking and being a gallery that — not exclusively, mind — specialises in this discipline with a consistent rotation of strong shows from talented New Zealand printmakers, Solander has become a favourite space of mine to visit. They also run workshops on bookbinding and printmaking techniques.

Inge Doesburg 'Above Water' promo image
Inge Doesburg 'Peninsula (Dunedin)' mixed media on gesso on paper, 2011

Opening on Wednesday night, their newest exhibition features a double-header show of new work by painter Inge Doesburg and by printmaker Ben Reid. There is ostensibly no connection between the two shows. Doesburg’s Above Water series explores the powerful symbolic nature of water. According to one source, the expression ‘above the water’ represents spiritual enlightenment, and this links well with a poem by Goethe that is a favourite of the artist. Gesang der Geister über den Wassern discusses the circularity of life and death and arbitrariness of fate. Doesburg’s viewpoint is often from an elevated position with an expansive view of sea and sky. Her paintings reflect upon the division between the natural and supernatural worlds.

Ben Reid 'Paradise Lost' promo image
Ben Reid 'Natural Curiosities' drypoint and relief, 2010

Meanwhile in Ben Reid’s Paradise Lost the artist combines references to specific local environmental histories while maintaining a wider appreciation for the bigger picture of the conservation movement. Reid describes the works as ‘small stories for those prepared to listen’, gentle reminders of the fragile nature of our environment and how easily these vulnerable ecosystems are destroyed by human intervention.

I say:

Reid’s prints ambitiously combine the somewhat apposite techniques of woodblock relief and drypoint etching and I am curious to see how successful this has been. Based on the promotional photo (right) he’s clearly a talented image-maker but can he pull off this complicated printing process consistently enough? One really has little way of knowing until the chance arrives to see the works up close. What additionally intrigues me are the “small stories” he is telling and whether they manage to find good balance between whimsy and over-sentimentality, between reason and didacticism, between instruction and excessive moralising. I may also discover a more robust connection to Milton than I can imagine at this moment; plus something about the image of a small bird sellotaped to a wall just tickles me fancy.

Based on the single promotional image (above) Doesburg’s paintings appear to worship at the church of landscape painting in New Zealand, your High Priest Sir M. Tosswill Woolaston. That is not to say at all that this is is a bad thing but it’s a formidable tradition to be associated with. I’m also interested in the success of her conveyance of “spiritual enlightenment … the division between the natural and supernatural worlds,” which frankly is another formidable subject to approach. Finally I must confess scepticism about painting — or mixed media — on paper, so this will be another aspect to ponder when the work is on the walls.

The exhibitions Above Water and Paradise Lost open at Solander Gallery: Works on Paper on Wednesday 4th of May at 5.30 pm. The show runs from the 5th of May – 11th of June, 2011.

Solander Gallery: Works on Paper, 218 Willis Street, Wellington.

Gallery opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sat: 10am – 4.00pm
Phone: 04-920-0913

For more information visit their website or email the gallery.

Solander brand image