“This Annunciation” 1500x1200mm oil and charcoal on canvas

Exploring space and absence

By T.J McNamara August 15 2009 N.Z Herald 

History is also important in the work of Brendan McGorry at the City Art Rooms in an exhibition called This is the New Sound just like the Old Sound. The central piece, This Annunciation, is a self-portrait of the artist at work on a drawing. Under the colourful ceiling of his studio are the ghosts of artists who have been his inspiration: Van Eyck, Gozzoli, Cellini, El Greco and Jacques-Louis David.

The artist has the past in front of him rather than behind because it is real. The future, which is behind him and as yet unreal, is represented through all the painted works as loose masses of colour. The idea that this may have the beginnings of form and ideas is suggested by the dividing animal cells that float through some of the paintings. Colour also sets the tone. For instance, The Gifts has a prevailing moody blue.

There is a sense of development in the paintings. Daddy has six solemn guardian figures surrounding three children around a gas burner which connects with nutrition and danger. But everything is ambiguous – behind the guardians are fixed and conservative robot structures while change is indicated by the way paint runs in streams down the painting.

The paintings are the richest part of this exhibition. They are accompanied by big screenprints in black and white which are less complex though still ambiguous. Most impressive of these is Leaving Siam, which shows a boy wide-eyed and naive but potentially dangerous with a sword in one hand and a carving knife in the other. Around him in a cloud of allusions are such things as a tiger, a turtle and Asian gods.

In his previous exhibitions McGorry has been bold and direct, sometimes to the point of crudity. In this show he has attained a new and impressive complexity.