Jamie Te Heuheu | Quiet Thoughts and Quiet Dreams
23.11.23 - 31.01.24
Starkwhite is delighted to present Jamie Te Heuheu’s (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) inaugural show, Quiet Thoughts and Quiet Dreams, from 23 November.
Te Heuheu is an Ōtautahi Christchurch based artist who works through monochrome colour field painting to explore the limits of the formal qualities of abstract artmaking, with an emphasis on process and brushwork.
In many ways monochrome painting seems like the logical conclusion of minimalism and abstraction. The elimination of any figuration allows the artist to focus on the materiality of the oil paint and the unique properties of colour. Even the artist himself, the autobiographical element, is erased.
Te Heuheu, who graduated from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts with first class honours in 2020, and a co-founder of The Den artist run space in Christchurch, deconstructs fields of lush, saturated colour by building up a dynamic tension in seductive textures of regular, rhythmic brushstrokes.
These brushstrokes can evenly distribute themselves across a surface in arcs occasionally interrupted by a vertical stroke. Each stroke belies its gestural nature by imitating a mechanical-like repetition. He’s not seeking transcendence, this is immanence. It forces the viewer to slow down in their experience of the painting.
The monochrome colour field reveals the very act of its making, the ‘objectness’ of the painting, without any distraction. The paint is autonomous, existing completely independently of interpretation or context. The paint is the protagonist of its own story.
Each stroke is the concrete record of a thought and action of Te Heuheu’s hand. Every stroke catches the light in a slightly different way, like the scales of a fish, incorporating that reflection as part of the painting so that they seem to move and dance. Marks that start in one orientation subtly transition to others as the eye makes its way through them.
But it is not completely cerebral and physical. There is a humour to it too, a witty and playful self-awareness of the paintings’ relation to modernist art history, cleverly subverting its high-browed pretensions. Te Heuheu avoids slavish reverence, but also clearly cares with intense passion. Both aesthetic retinal experience and philosophically thought provoking, most of all Te Heuheu’s paintings are tight visual haiku of beauty and pleasure, ultimately joyous and ebullient.