The Primitive Bird Group - Clare Reilly "Tuis at Te Kinga" and Max Podstolski "Towards White Out" at Left Bank Art Gallery, October 2nd to November 12th 2003

Reviewed by Wayne Lorimer, Greymouth Evening Star, Oct 15 2003


The Primitive Bird Group - partners Clare Reilly and Max Podstolski - make a welcome return to the Left Bank Art Gallery this month. It has been a year since we saw them last, a year they have spent wisely developing their artistic styles, to reach beyond their previous offerings.

Reilly's last showing at the Left Bank had an air of sobriety to it, mostly derived from its imagery set amongst the bleak Australian outback. Birds were trapped within wires, or simply lost within the vast wilderness, creating an uneasy sense of isolation that pervaded the series.

This time, however, Reilly has drawn inspiration from the more lush surroundings of our local environment - Te Kinga at Moana, and the resulting works speak more of abundance and hope than desolation and despair.

Titles such as Soaring High and Golden Day further add to the feeling that these are more settled paintings. The Te Kinga images also have a lot more going on compositionally that the Australian works - Tui's Outlook is particularly resplendent in its use of light and colour to draw you into the image and create a real sense of depth, while the vastly sweeping Dawn Flight takes all of the iconic imagery from the area and fuses it together to create one satisfying whole.

In the end, whether only sensed or actually implied, these works have an affirmative quality to them that make them a joy to view and a delight to own. If "Tuis at Te Kinga" doesn't make you yearn for the idyllic tranquillity of Moana, then nothing will.

Affirmation is also evident in Podstolski's new work - an affirmation of style. With every successive exhibition, Podstolski's iconic imagery grows in clarity and confidence, to the point where he is at now - big, bold and beautiful.

The paper works of his "Strips" series have given way to large canvases that really allow Podstolski to flex his artistic muscle and create paintings with real presence. In doing so, both his palette and his mark-making have become simplified, refined and focused - to the point where Podstolski can even feel comfortable offering works that are white-on-white (hence the title of his show).

His graffitoid pictograms now make their presence truly felt, writ large with almost biblical importance, and defined across the surface by the use of dribbled PVA glue. This creates fun, funky, fabulous works that signal a more aggressive Podstolski - and it's an aggression that really pays off.


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