Bland Bay painter Andrea Hopkins is showing a selection of 21 paintings at Tuatara, on Bank Street, Whangarei. In it the artist emerges from the shadow of giants of the art scene, in a very personal collection of images.
Almost to explain her progress, the artist initially unveils works which move away from old influences, as in the abstract ‘Mihi ki nga Matua’, sitting outside the doorway. The artist told me she was influenced by Sandy Adsett, and this piece would seen to bear this out.
Just inside the gallery, four canvasses place simplified forms against Shane Cotton-like settings. But Hopkins also includes new approaches, which she reworks continually in this exhibition. Waving toetoe forms and ancestral figures appear, experimentally used for the first time here. A Dick Frizzel-like trilogy of trivialised Maori masks follows. Again, the artist seems to be signalling ideas, for these tuna-lipped characters fill many later paintings.
Another work called ‘You cant always get what you Want’ flies a kite-like personality over a trendy figure below who is letting the other go. The lurid Alizarian crimson background makes for a strange reading, the artist cast half into dreamtime, and half in the physical world.
Other works such as the biggish ‘Duality’ takes Hopkins back to contemplating her mixed identity. Then the excitement begins, for Hopkins seems to have forged a new trails, partly by viewing the real world, but using it sparingly in describing a calmer view.
Her ‘Whenua Series’ for instance have beautiful little touches of paint, based once on toetoe leaves, but reappearing here as decorative tracery. Hopkins then makes a dramatic leap forward.
If earlier works are cognizant of the dark conventions of Cotton, her ‘Lifes a Game’ series show refreshing changes, with cleaner paint and a playful approach. Number 14 and 16 employ Snakes and Ladders games, a figure climbing through a maze of delicate patterns. They are a gentle metaphor for life, minus the old pathos.
As in her earlier ‘Whenua’ landscapes, the palette has lightened, and there are lovely inclusions of actual stitching and crafts. This is a new Andrea Hopkins, experimenting confidently, with fewer axes to grind. Exquisite!
In another corner of this room, a sequence called ‘One Night on a Balcony’ is shown. They pose a range of lithe fashion figures, topped with the fleshy lipped caricatures of Maori carving seen earlier. Surprisingly, they have a compelling individuality. In them, lovers and lounge lizards cavort, like Garth Tapper boozers on speed. They remind me of those strung-out youthful times, when, a little addled in bars, profundity seems to take over minor gestures, giving an inflated hope of love or meaning.
In this show, Andrea Hopkins seems determined to expunge crappy New Zealand teaching, often based on overdone models, and to find life anew. These modestly-priced works, after a historicising start, are fresh and powerful, enlivened by the entry of the real world. Well worth the investment.