“To be a good painter, you have to be a bit stupid”

-Salvador Dali


The act of painting; It’s like creating a flame by rubbing two sticks together. The discipline isn’t always efficient. It’s messy, materially and conceptually, but the process is spiritual and the resolution, magic. 

Passionate and romantic, the small colourful works on raw wood paneling present folksy imaginings. Just as Rousseau painted the jungles of Africa without ever leaving Paris in his lifetime, my dreams are other-worldly, and I struggle to realize them in paint.

The process of painting straight onto unprimed building material, is reminiscent of work by Australian outlaw artist Ian Fairweather. My methods are partly a result of my fascination with outsider painters. The work also touches on the psychedelic notion of hallucination, seeing crawling visions in inanimate objects and walls.

 Ghosts are real, they live in our subconscious, they are the shadow part of human love. The past is all we have. Everything that is dead, or extinct, still exists on another plain. In my paintings ghosts are acknowledged, the past is captured, and immortalized.

The Thylacine became extinct in the 1930s, at the same time the surrealists were hitting their stride in Europe. The marsupial is from Tasmania, (a small island off the South of Australia) the creature stands as a symbol of exoticism in Australasia. Proud but lonely this Tiger is painted bigger than life, bigger than me. He stands in a futurist environment, space like. He has transcended, and exists on another plain.

It is said that children can’t differentiate between inanimate objects and living things. When I was very young, 3 or 4, I had no real friends; I created them out of paper and cardboard, the same size as me. It was wonderfully fulfilling! It still is.   


Dyana Gray 2011


Drawing on the Universe by Gavin Bertram Printed in D Scene 15/6/11

ONLY a handful of the works in Rachel Taylor’s new show at A Gallery were created specifically for it.

The rest are drawings the Dunedin artist has been working on over the last couple of years – a departure from her usual work in ceramics, assemblage, and oil painting.

“I’d been a little bit transient,” Taylor says. “And to fulfil my practice I’d been drawing because it’s something you can just do anywhere. There’re four larger works I did especially for the show, but the smaller ones were made to fulfil that need to create.”

The artist went through the Master of Fine Arts programme at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art during its first intake several years ago. Her fellow Masters’ graduateJay Hutchinsonopened A Gallery in late 2010, and approached Taylor for what’s her second solo show.

Over the period of their creation, the artist says she’s heavily edited and reworked the drawings included in Black Hole Verses Baby Universes.

“There were works where I’d gone right to the edges and put colour in and realised they weren’t as strong,” she says. “The more work you make the more you can stand back and compare work at different stages – if you’re working on a few at a time you can see them unfolding and can make some educated comparisons between each stage.”

However, Taylor is glad some of the works in the show were created before Hutchinson approached her. This is because the work was created in a less self-conscious manner, and free of time related pressures.

“They’re completely free flowing intuitive works,” she considers. “It’s nice to have the backing of all that technique and knowing you can do that but then also let go of all that formal structure and go ‘I’m just going to have fun and make some work’.”

Despite the compact size of some of the works in Black Hole Verses Baby Universes, Taylor says eight or nine hours of drawing time have been poured into many of them.

It was a deliberate decision to spend that amount of time on them, she explains, due to the meditative nature of the process and a desire to “spend time investigating the pen and different textures”.

Apart from the ink drawings, another interesting work in the show is a castle constructed of cotton buds, straws, and toilet rolls.

“I like making something out of nothing and trying to transcend the material,” Taylor says. “Making something that’s really beautiful and almost spiritual out of everyday objects.”


Review on Rachel Taylor by Ralph Body Printed in the ODT 23/6/11

Rachel Taylor’s Castle has no doubt caught the attention of many people walking along Princes St. Located in a gallery’s front window, this candy-coloured mixed media construction recalls the extravagant whimsy of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Closer inspection reveals that this mixture of castle and cathedral has been created from coloured cotton buds and drinking straws, built around an undisguised armature of cardboard toilet rolls. This intricate celebration of childlike fantasy is also strangely unsettling.

Its writhing forms seem as vulnerable as a house of cards. This same combination of beauty, playfulness, decorative pattern, vulnerability and anxiety also characterisesTaylor’s mixed media works on paper. These densely layered images, mixing drawing, painting and collage, both seduce and disturb. This is especially true of those works featuring children.

 In The Good Book, a series of blindfolded young girls are shown kneeling, praying and clutching books. What could be a perfectly innocent childhood game appears distinctly sinister, with the girls surrounded by a cluster of staring eyes, while a serpent slithers among the flowers. Other works feature bats, ghost and owls, the haunted house imagery of childhood fears, youthful figures engaging in sexual acts, giant insects and strangely psychedelic plant life.

COSMIC DRAMA by Gavin Bertram printed in D scene 20/04/11

Dunedin artist Sharon Singer says there is research involved in her work-even though it may happen in a haphazard manner. “Nothing happens in a vacuum, but it’s more by osmosis “, she says of her reading and internet delving.

“I’m totally addicted to National Geographic and I think they inform a lot of the work.”

She’s also in touch with an online community of artists and academics, but it’s perhaps the world represented in National Geographic’s glossy pages that looms largest over Singer’s current exhibition.

Soil, at the relatively new a gallery on princes St, is loosely   themed around man’s ongoing endeavours   to   use the resources provided by Earth in the belief that the planet is inexhaustible.

This ranges from the oil industry and the ecological disasters it’s wreaked, to religious ideas about use and ownership of land.

“I don’t call it God or anything like that but I think the planet has a   consciousness,”the artist explains.

“It’s not indifferent to what we are doing .When you look at these earthquakes and tidal waves it gives you pause to wonder. There is this kind of   cosmic drama  going on and we ‘re a part of it ,but I don’t think we’re going to be part of it for too much longer if we don’t get it together.”

Singer came to Dunedin in 2005 to complete her Masters at the Otago Polytechnic’s School of Art.

One of her main interests has been fairytales and myths , and some of her works have been used in international publications, including Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. That was edited by Jack Zipes   ,an academic with expertise in fairytales that Singer began communicating with over the net.

“When I was doing my masters I was engaged in this research and he kept coming up,” she says.

“it was really accessible writing and really intelligent , and I thought  I’m going to send him an email .He  came to New Zealand  and purchased a work ,and we still communicate .There’s this community of interest I’m fortunate to be able to draw on and have these dialogues with people”.

Such has been Singer’s association with fairytales that some who attended the opening of Soil were surprised the artist had moved from the subject.

“But it’s still story-telling,” she considers.

“It’s still dealing with the same issues of fear and desire .I  think that underlies our relationship with the land.”

Soil comments on such contemporary issues as over consumption, capitalism, pollution   and greed .Singer admits that what she calls “consciousness –raising art” can have a cringe factor ; it also has a place.

“I think artists get away with it, and there’s almost this expectation that it’s part of the role” she reflects

“Art shouldn’t be about art, it should be about life.”


SOIL Review by Naomi Boult

Sharon Singer’s solo show, the aptly named Soil, seems to be a departure from the general tenor of a gallery’s earlier exhibitions, as well as from her own well-developed style. Singer’s works, which have in the past been densely populated by her own personal lexicon of mythical archetypes, are now almost entirely uninhabited. Instead, they seem to envision the raw emptiness of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In these latest works Singer uses bold expressive brushstrokes to pay homage to the beauty of nature, but there is also a darkness which lurks just below the surface. These landscapes are not a backdrop to humanity, but rather a subject rife with their own ominous narrative and atmosphere. The early 20th century neo-romantics depicted similarly evocative landscapes and were significantly affected by the zeitgeist of war time Europe. Singer appears to have explored this concept in a contemporary setting, utilizing the modern fear of the ever present precipice of disaster to instill her landscapes with a foreboding resonance.

In two of her Postcard series Singer uses a predominantly ochre and charcoal palette, creating landscapes that seem to perpetually exist in the moments just before nightfall. The two other works from the same series depict a different vista. One is awash with muted cold light, the other in burning shades of red and orange. As different as these paintings are, they are all united by a common element. There is a desolate beauty to these works which reminds us that, in the absence of humanity, the topography of the land remains constant.

The brooches on display are to my mind, an intriguing combination of the Dutch tradition of Vanitas and Victorian mourning jewelry. Singer has worked in wearable art in the past, and these pieces demonstrate that art need not always be relegated to a gallery environment. Where Vanitas, with their skulls and rotting fruit, served as a reminder of mortality, and mourning jewelry has traditionally served as a reminder of a particular lost loved one, these ornate brooches adorned with painted skulls, seem to provide a subtle commentary on the universal transience of life.

The insidious presence of death is further explored in Dead Sea Mermaid, one of the two works in this show which is occupied by human or humanlike figures. The serpentine skeletal form of the mermaid is draped in colourful Mardi Gras beads, dutifully earned given the figure’s ghostly outline of breasts. By contrast the work Prey which hangs on the adjacent wall, features the Virgin Mary running a rosary of skulls through her hands, her blue robes blending into the surrounding imagery. This work is further populated by a combination of old and new, reality and make-believe. In this world a rather startled looking anthropomorphised hot air balloon, a lonely moa and a modern day boat, all become part of the same mythology. These elements collectively offer the viewer an impression of playfulness that is engaging but which also generates a sense of unease. This combination of gravity and celebration resonates throughout Soil, and provides an interesting premise for willing viewers to follow through the exhibition.