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April 01 - April 30, 2011

Stephen Bambury
Home is the First Abstraction

Jonathan Smart Gallery is delighted to present Stephen Bambury's first solo exhibition in Christchurch for ten years. We stand before five wall works from four different series, and two floor works - a flag still furled from 1999, and a cast plaster house in two parts.

IC089329IC089329, 2008 comes to meet you as you walk into the Gallery. This might seem a strange thing to say of a painting, but this work's muscley inset cross is projected 80mm out from the wall (by brackets behind) and is painted in rusted iron filings, thickly lain down over layers of magenta and white acrylic beneath. Consider the cross pushed forward beyond a frame of white. Its interior has a textured velveteen look of great atmosphere and deep space. The painting comprises 1200mm square of braced flat aluminium. But its surfaces treat us to illusions of texture, flatness and great depth. Everything is utterly considered. Yet there is a feeling of overwhelming dynamism.

Poised either side are paintings exquisite and light. Ghost Ladder (III), 2006 combines the materiality of raw aluminium and silver leaf. The effect is of immateriality - the shimmer of reflection and light - and of aspiration, as one ascends the ladder from the bottom panel to the top. In terms of chakra, this might be an ascension from the groin, through matters of the heart to the head. Metaphysics and kundalini aside however, reward is simply the effort of looking up.

Ghost Ladder (III) - installation     Ghost Ladder (III) - installation1

Similarly raw (but arguably not so exquisite and light), is the house "Home is the First Abstraction", 2011. Right now in Christchurch, we look at the skewed geometries of this house with a particular mix of awe and horror. It is typically Bambury however, to bring together two parts (almost) as one, to play intimately with edge and surface, and to combine the casual and the abject with the sublime and the beautiful. Architecture and painting shadow one another consistently throughout the Bambury oeuvre. Along with the whisper of history, these are the co-ordinates of a practice now 35 years in the making - a commitment to the studio, to the process of looking, thinking and the laying on of hands still going strong.

Jonathan Smart

SC089140   SC089144


Maungarongo (Chrysalis)      Siena (XLVIII)


List of works 

SC089140, 2008
acrylic on aluminium
550 x 550mm

Ghost Ladder (III), 2006
silver leaf & chemical action on aluminium
2750 x 500mm

"Home is the First Abstraction", 2011
catalytic casting plaster, 23k gold leaf, timber
920 x 230 x 240mm

IC089329, 2008
iron filings & acrylic on aluminium
1200 x 1200mm

SC089144, 2008
acrylic on aluminium
550 x 550mm

Siena (XLVIII), 2007
acrylic, 23k gold leaf, Schlag metal on aluminium
500 x 1000mm

Maungarongo (Chrysalis) for the people of Te Rongopai Marae 1999
silk-screen on fabric & silk stocking
150 x 300mm