In The Path of Light, esteemed contemporary painter and calligrapher Max Gimblett’s vibrant energy plays out across the surface of his canvases. Punctuations of gilding in precious metals, for which the artist is well-known, are suggestive of alchemy and both western and non-western religious beliefs. The use of gold, in particular, has a long history which dates back to Egyptian tomb reliefs and paintings. More recently, it has associations with honour, consciousness and enlightenment, which Gimblett draws upon, embracing its significance across cultures.
Key works in the exhibition, such as New Zealand – For Len Lye and Sea Change have a distinct relationship to our country, channeling tones of green and blue that Gimblett relates to our place in the Pacific. Sea Change, moreover, references Ariel’s song in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ with the lines “But doth suffer a sea-change. Into something rich and strange,” suggesting a substantial, holistic change in perspective, or metamorphosis. Other works, such as Altar and The Paths of Time, have a complex use of layering as the artist works into the surface time and time again.
In relation to his practice, Gimblett finds positives in the recent pandemic, mentioning that it has given him a concentrated period to focus on his work with no distractions. He recently shifted to a new studio space in New York, commenting that in doing so, he’s “shifted from an afternoon painter to a morning painter because of the direction of the east/west light. The light, both natural and electric, is much brighter in the new space.” Gimblett sees this impacting his work, increasing the ‘inner light’ of his paintings, evident in works such as Christ Risen.
Talking about the experience of viewing work, Gimblett discusses;
“Looking into a painting takes time. To move from the third dimension to the fourth and fifth, stand in front of the work and let it develop in your third eye and solar plexus. Don't rush this looking. Understanding painting is to increase and improve your inner life, to be an inspiration, although mute and silent, to speak. Be with the painting in all forms of natural light during the day and night. Have the faith that whatever you are thinking about and feeling in front of the painting is essential to your inner life.”
Accompanying Gimblett’s recent paintings is the release of a new series of unique screen prints. In bold, sophisticated tones, Gimblett works with screen printing techniques as he does painting. The artist responds to each layer as the work progresses, rather than working in large runs as the technique is more commonly employed. The result captures the vivacity of Gimblett’s works on canvas, and is an integral part of the artist’s drawing practice.
Gimblett lives and works in New York with the scholar, curator and writer Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, to whom he has been married for 56 years. He maintains a strong link to New Zealand where he was born and raised, travelling and making work here frequently over the past 40 years. His work is found in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of American Art, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art of Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of New South Wales, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi ō Tamaki and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Due to Level 3 restrictions currently in place in Auckland, the scheduled opening for this exhibition on Tuesday 16th February has been cancelled. Further details on when the exhibition will be open to the public will be confirmed.