Exhibitions

Martin Basher Birds of Paradise | 13 April – 14 May

Martin Basher’s latest solo exhibition at Starkwhite introduces a new body of work to a New Zealand audience. Large-scale paintings build graphic layers of hard-edged and linear botanical shapes into stark, sumptuous forms hovering somewhere between floral still-life — that traditional genre of painting steeped in allegory and moral contemplation — and hybridised, layered abstraction. Incorporating the gradient-based abstractions Basher is best known for, while pushing out into new territories of figuration, the exhibition takes his work into places the artist describes as some of the most ‘pictorially challenging, tenuous, interesting and exhausting I’ve been in for years.’

Basher weathered most of a tumultuous 2020 living and working in New York City, his adopted home for the last 20 years. And this new work has been born of these unstable times. Just as the pandemic saw the foundations of the world were being tested, he says, ‘so too my practice, my understandings of form and surface, of content and really, my very assumptions of the world itself’. Indeed, across this suite of new work, Basher has reached for spaces of pictorial precarity, wrangling images of intense poise and tension, of a tenuous, crystalline depiction of nature that suggests how far we already are from a world of balance and equilibrium.

Though Martin Basher is an unabashed producer of beautiful, incandescent pictures, an undercurrent of unease has long run through his practice, much of it focussed on the gossamer currents of desire and longing that weave together our increasingly consumerist lives. The flip side of all that consumption inevitably runs to its deleterious spiritual effects, and from there, an anxiety, even a grief for all the damage we have visited on the natural world. This is not to say Basher’s work is polemic, however, more that his work holds its subject at remove, framed by our collective imagination and hubris. In this exhibition, Basher remains intently engaged with beauty, but his depictions of nature arrive with a degree of remove, with a sense of memorial to something lost. Basher approaches the still life tradition in a graphic, elegant, and sparse manner, offering black and white landscapes super heated with flaming orange. Across Basher’s canvases a garden of motionless, unreal perfection unfolds. Abstracted stiff, oblong leaves borne on long petioles create strong verticals before the iconic Bird of Paradise erupts, its blue and orange crane-like flower giving the plant a bird-like morphology. Highly stylised and at times almost minimal, these works draw on the tropical Bird of Paradise plant to create botanical silhouettes interrupted by geometric shapes, watery drips and abstract marks. Joined by a selection of his signature, ultra-saturated, hard-edge abstractions and flawless gradients , Basher reflects on cultural as much as natural processes, nodding variously to Ikebana flower arrangement, and to the dystopian speculative fictions of J.G. Ballard.

Basher’s compositions mostly build out of monochrome shapes layered on flat surfaces. Bold contrasts are formed with dark and light and these are punctuated by the closely observed renderings of the Strelitzia flower. But the Ballard-ean, post-apocalyptic tenor of the exhibition here extends to the depiction of these hyper-real elements. Describing the Bird of Paradise as “otherworldly, a signifier of the natural but so alien and perfect,” Basher in fact paints these flowers from cast plastic replicas, not the real thing, adding a further layer of distance between the paintings and the nature they depict.

In her book Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future Elizabeth Kolbert deals with the enormous impact people have on the planet we inhabit and the species we share with it. From ‘assisted evolution’ including efforts to save coral in Hawaii and the Great Barrier Reef to science-fiction like concepts including scattering tiny particles into the air to filter solar radiation and cool the planet, she details how human intervention in the natural world also includes the struggle to repair damage caused by mistakes along the way. Such visionary — or perhaps terrifying — attempts to re-engineer the planet could either end in flames or in a new vision of paradise, Basher’s work seems to suggest.

Martin Basher wishes to convey special thanks to Creative New Zealand, who provided significant fiscal support in the making of this new body of work, with a CNZ COVID Continuity Grant.

Exhibitions

Current

Upcoming

Past

Layla Rudneva-Mckay | I Roll

15 February 2022 - 19 March 2022

Fiona Pardington | Tarota

16 November – 18 December 2021

Fiona Pardington | Tarota Preview

5 October – 7 October 2021

Jan van der Ploeg | The Other Window

17 August – 12 October 2021

Laith McGregor | Second Wind

3 July 2021 – 7 August 2021

Richard Maloy | Maternal Routine

3 June - 19 June 2021

The Auckland Art Fair 2021

24.02 - 28.02

Will Cooke | Every Wall Is A Door

15 January 2021 - 13 February 2021

Whitney Bedford - Bohemia

Seung Yul Oh: Horizontal Loop

John Reynolds: RocksInTheSky...

For Pink Pussycat Club | as part of THE BILL

Fiona Pardington | Childish Things

Seung Yul Oh memmem

Rebecca Baumann Once More With Feeling

SIGNALS

The Armory Show 2010 | 1001 Nights
an installation by John Reynolds

Art LA Contemporary 2010

ShContemporary 2008 | Gavin Hipkins, Hye Rim Lee, Jae Hoon Lee and Grant Stevens

Jonny Niesche | Poikilos | 17 November - 22 December

GEMMA SMITH - Thin Air

SLIPPERY PAINTING

Performative Geographies

Sampler 2020

Gordon Walters: From the Archive

Richard Maloy

Rebecca Baumann: New Work

Jan van der Ploeg | The Other Window | 17 August to 12 October

the artists in conversation, The Estate of L. Budd et al.

Art of Wine

Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti: Flagged

Clinton Watkins

Yuk King Tan

Sampler 2019

TIKI: Orphans of Māoriland

AM/PM/AM

BILLY APPLE® is N=One

Ani O'Neill

Laith McGregor | Second Wind | July 3 - August 7

Alicia Frankovich

Martin Basher: Untitled

The Estate of L.Budd_et al.

Gavin Hipkins: Block Units

John Stezaker: Collages

Grant Stevens - The Mountain and the Waterfalls

Gordon Walters

Sampler

125

Len Lye: Love Springs Eternal

Richard Maloy | Things I have Seen

Michael Zavros | The Silver Fox

Martin Basher | Devil at the Gates of Heaven

Daniel von Sturmer, Luminous Figures

Martin Basher | Hawaiian Tropic

Nabokov's Blues: The Charmed Circle

John Reynolds 2017

BIll Henson | 1985 -2021 | 21 May - 19 June

On the Grounds

Billy Apple

Beyond Landscape

John Reynolds | WalkWithMe...

Laith McGregor | Swallow the Sun

Matt Henry | Analogues

Daniel Crooks | Vanishing Point

Material Candour 2016

Fiona Pardington | 100% Unicorn

Layla Rudneva-Mackay: Running Towards Water

Martin Basher Birds of Paradise | 13 April - 14 May

Clinton Watkins | lowercase

Whitney Bedford 2016 | Lost and Found

Alicia Frankovich | The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations

Fiona Pardington | The Popular Recreator

Gavin Hipkins | Block Paintings

Gordon Walters: Gouaches and a Painting from the 1950s

In Motion

Laith McGregor | Somewhere Anywhere

Starkwhite Queenstown | New Location

TOTEM | A Starkwhite exhibition curated by Mary Morrison

Group Show

Martin Basher | Jizzy Velvet

John Reynolds BLUTOPIA

Gavin Hipkins Erewhon

Grant Stevens Hold Together, Fall Apart

Michael Zavros Bad Dad

Not Another Art Fair | 24 February -3 April

THE ANALYSIS OF BILLY APPLE®

Layla Rudneva-Mackay

Lovers

Glen Hayward I don't want you to worry about me

Matt Henry High Fidelity

Richard Maloy All the things I did by Richard Maloy

Li Xiaofei

John Reynolds Vagabondage

Clinton Watkins Frequency Colour

BAZINGA! curated by Robert Leonard

Starkwhite Queenstown 29 January - 26 February

Whitney Bedford: This for That

Jin Jiangbo: Rules of Nature

Martin Basher

Billy Apple®: $9,020 AND $5,750 TOP UPS

Jim Speers Long Days

Ross Manning: Field Emmissions

Peter Peryer Edition

Jae Hoon Lee Antarctic Fever

Greetings from Los Angeles curated by Brian Butler

Seung Yul Oh HUGGONG