Sandra Barlow sells Wellington
Wellington is the fourth painting in Sandra Barlow’s set of five New Zealand cityscapes. Whereas the Auckland composition contained a bifurcated ‘crossroads’ narrative, both literally and figuratively, New Zealand’s capital city rightly reflects both implicitly and explicitly, dimensions of power.
Although this oil painting retains strong stylistic echoes from Don Binney, Rita Angus and landscape elements from Michael Illingworth, more than her other cityscapes, Wellington is presented with flattened perspectives of the key structures thus bringing them into immediate sharp focus. This brings Barlow’s work towards Robin White as seen in the recent exhibition of her work in the Auckland Art Gallery. As with the previous cityscapes, Barlow’s bright vibrant signature colour palette makes the composition easily accessible to the eye.
Wellington offers a dynamic interpretation on the nodes of power that are associated with the capital city. However, the natural expectation of the centrality of the beehive is geographically re-arranged showing it as partially obscured by the leading flange of Te Papa. This suggests, perhaps that political power in itself is mitigated, tempered or even subordinate to cultural imperatives that are represented by New Zealand’s national museum. The elevated residencies are located opposite to these institutions indicating separation. The artist has also chosen to feature Steeple Rock/Te Aroaro-o-Kupe, close to where the Wahine ran aground with the loss of 51 lives during April storms in 1968. The cloud formations also provide a potentially ominous commentary.
Finally, the most dramatic illustration of raw power belongs to the koru-inspired tectonic plates that thrust under the city. Although such seismic activity can be seen as threatening, in Maori culture, the koru is concomitantly seen as a symbol of not just strength, but creativity and peace. This underscores all the moving parts that make this a stunning, powerful composition.
Oil on Board 900x600mm