Michael Hight returns to Gow Langsford Gallery with a solo exhibition of recent works returning to a series commonly referred to as ‘the black paintings’ - a crucial series of Hight’s oeuvre since 2008.
The Hunterville Suite presents six paintings that recall historical notions of the theatre of memory and cabinets of curiosities. Tapping into a childlike wonder at everyday objects and places, the works draw inspiration the artist’s formative years in Taranaki and Rangitikei, specifically referencing the small town Hunterville in the lower North Island. Utilizing a modular shelving unit as a compositional device across each work – a tool first used in the major painting Stocktaking at Te Wera Store (2012) - intricate depictions of found or collected objects collide with ornaments and fragments of landscapes. Hight’s compositions balance order and narrative with the free association more readily encountered in a dream-scape. Distributed across the shelves, items give a glimpse of an autobiographical narrative, yet the reading is cryptic - as if a puzzle or game of Sudoku, challenging the viewer to build or question connections. Gregory O’Brien states in Crossing The Line (2014): “For Hight, the still life genre is a laboratory or workshop of symbols and meanings.”
In a time of globalization, Hight’s paintings are intensely local. They explore the idiosyncrasies of rural New Zealand through an autobiographical eye.