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John Reynolds Paintings

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Detail of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #9, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #9, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #6, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #5, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #2, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 120.50 x 90.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #7, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #12, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #13, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 140.50 x 100.20 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #14, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 140.30 x 100.40 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #16, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #18, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 140.30 x 100.40 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #19, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #17, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 140.30 x 100.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #8, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm John Reynolds, Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #3, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm Detail of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #8, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm Detail of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (for Claire) #3, 2024, metallic marker, acrylic on canvas, 213.30 x 152.30 cm Installation view of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (For Claire) exhibition at Starkwhite. Installation view of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (For Claire) exhibition at Starkwhite. Installation view of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (For Claire) exhibition at Starkwhite. Installation view of John Reynolds' Some Greater Plan (For Claire) exhibition at Starkwhite.

This is a hard (perhaps impossible) task, because Reynolds' celebration is inevitably underpinned by grief. There is no escaping the activity of mourning which the artist is trying to move on from. (An earlier, related but less intense, Reynolds project is the 2019 'Missing Hours' show about McCahon's descent into dementia). Yet such narratives have to be ignored when assessing these works, which despite being courageous, also fail.

Auckland

 

John Reynolds
Some Greater Plan (for Claire)

 


4 June - 6 July 2024

Sixteen vertical rectangular works from John Reynolds, depict densely packed groups of decorative Xmas tree baubles (hovering spheres of silver wire). These are represented by differently sized circles of radiating lines—suggesting turning spokes or revolving crosses—made through trimmed masking tape, liquid acrylic and metallic marker pen dots.

The paintings are unabashedly cheerful and ornamental (they also can be interpreted as exploding fireworks), but with the pointed presence of the Crowded House quote/title, it is clear the series is intended as a celebration—not of the festive season—but of the life, service and medical research of Reynolds’ late wife, Dr. Claire McLintock.

Such an aspiration of course has very heavy baggage if quality of painting is to depend mostly on quality of image dynamic, as I believe it must—a difficult notion especially if locked into the context of a painful family tragedy. So we must look at these ‘festive’ paintings and regard them as ornate signs that point towards something beyond their forms—to the personality and achievements of McLintock—but which don’t directly dwell on them.

This is a hard (perhaps impossible) task, because Reynolds’ celebration is inevitably underpinned by grief. There is no escaping the activity of mourning which the artist is trying to move on from. (An earlier, related but less intense, Reynolds project is the 2019 Missing Hours show about McCahon’s descent into dementia). Yet such narratives have to be ignored when assessing these works, which despite being courageous, also fail.

That applies even the better works here, which are the darker more polished paintings which have a richer treatment of immersive space. #6 and #9 are particularly wonderful works with their layered depths.

In contrast, the ‘airier’ saturated coloured works on white canvas have a loose raw quality, and focus more graphicly on the dribbles, enclosed cross shapes and line thicknesses. They have a shallow space, seem comparatively unresolved, are less claustrophobic, and to their detriment, are more casually relaxed with the runny acrylic. In both light and dark works, the omnipresent acrylic drips could be signifiers for tears.

My view is one would tire quickly of most of these paintings, though the couple mentioned are much more inventive and visually richer than the others. Much earlier in his career Reynolds possessed the ability to exploit an undulating, sinuous, graphic line, but over time he became more holistic and lost that sensual, highly expressive linearity and compositional flair. He became focussed instead on spread-out fields of marks or language-but something got lost.

I don’t want to say these paintings are ‘bland’, because that doesn’t nail it. It is too severe. I like this show much more than his other more recent presentations. However it still mostly lacks depth, and the legitimate motivation behind their creation doesn’t save them, despite any empathy we might have towards the circumstances.

John Hurrell

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