The Primitive Bird Group: Clare Reilly "Austral Paintings" and Max Podstolski "Strips" at the Left Bank Art Gallery, Greymouth, 4-30 April 2002

Review by Wayne Lorimer, Greymouth Evening Star, April 11th 2002, p. 5.


This month, in the main exhibition space of the Left Bank Art Gallery, sees the joint exhibition of partners Clare Reilly and Max Podstolski ­ artistically known as "The Primitive Bird Group".

Their work shares in common a colourful palette that creates vibrant works of art, together with the oft-expressed kinship with bird forms (hence their moniker). Other than that, however, their two styles couldn't be more dissimilar.

With Reilly's "Austral Paintings" we find someone whose work is infused with a deeply personal response to environmental issues. Presented within these paintings is a heartfelt combination of celebration tinged with trepidation. Celebration of our abundance of flora and fauna overshadowed by the trepidation that some day this will all change.

Work such as Entrapment and Waiting (Sudden Falling Night) cleverly juxtapose the beautifully rendered landscapes with the tension that the birds create within the space. Within all of the works, the irrevocable mark of "man" rears its ugly head, changing the natural balance of things and opening the door to an uncertain future.

Reilly's highly pictorial, and in stages semi-surrealist style, suits the brevity and sincerity expressed within the work. "Austral Paintings" are a series of large, beautiful paintings that offer an intensely vibrant facade, while hiding a darkly serious intent that bubbles just beneath the surface.

Podstolski's "Strips" come from the other side of the art historical tracks ­ responding to Klee, Picasso, Haring and other modern primitivist's use of African, Pacific and Aboriginal iconography. Podstolski's works on paper (in a series of unified strips) offer up a coded map of the human psyche ­ a roadmap of shared experiences at a deeply subconscious level. We are then simply dropped off in the middle and allowed to negotiate our way out by creating our own stories and associations as the work unfolds.

Highly graphical and superbly colourful, Podstolski's strips amuse, bemuse, entice and enlighten in the same way that early Neolithic cave paintings do. We know (or at least assume that we know) that these works must mean something ­ indeed they call to us from our very earliest (primitive) DNA encoded memory banks. But we'll be blowed if we can figure out exactly what it all means. Final and complete understanding eludes, and this is why Podstolski's art is all the more engaging.

Intricately woven works such as Pictographiti and Strip-Search have endless hours of thought-provoking examination within them, while carefully structured pieces like Someday their (K)night will Come and Woof! are amusing, playful paintings that showcase Podstolski's graphic talent.

Like chalk and cheese, yet at the same time symbolically attuned, Reilly and Podstolski have filled the gallery with highly colourful works of passion, pain and intrigue ­ creating a visual feast that you simply must see.


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