Neal Palmer | Reaction & Reflection
Föenander Galleries is proud to present Neal Palmer’s new body of work ‘Reaction & Reflection’ which responds to his recent artist residency at Auckland Botanic Gardens:
“I started the groundwork for this exhibition at the beginning of 2023 while I was Artist in Residence at the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa.
During my residency, I created a large wall of A2 works on paper – a direct visual reaction to the gardens, a kind of portrait made up of carefully selected details. My studio was set up in the Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre, in public view.
The idea was to create as many works as possible, displaying them in a sequence that corresponded to the route I enjoyed taking through the gardens. My path curved from the Endangered Natives and Pā Harakeke areas through Native Trees, Edibles, past the Visitor Centre, through the Pines, into the Cactus area, the Children’s Garden, Roses and finally the Palms. My intention was to explore the character and variety of the Gardens as opposed to focusing on one area.
I approached the project in my usual way, walking and spending time in the environment, looking for shapes, patterns and colours that drew my attention before working on ideas through the lens of a camera. From there, I started to figure out how those images could be reinterpreted in drawings and paintings. I used a variety of materials, aiming for a balance between the character of the place and the photographic and experimental painted and drawn mark-making I’m known for. It was a specific reaction to visual languages, materials, time and place.
I’m attracted to details, the twist of a branch, the triangles between Harakeke leaves, the bands on a Nikau trunk, finding formal compositions in organic subjects and using those details to build a larger story. I wanted to represent the Gardens while experimenting with the materials. My intention was to create a spontaneous reaction and not worry about making polished pieces. I wanted to show the workings of my time there.
The A2 paper works did just that, encompassing a warts-and-all approach, with frottage pieces, sketches and more considered pieces that took time to explore the ideas in detail.
I ended up producing 60 individual works. I particularly like the way they relate and react visually with each other and tell the story of my time and movement through the gardens. A time I enjoyed immensely, not just because of the place but also the people I interacted with, both visitors and staff. Because my studio set up was in the public space, my interactions were constant – a rare experience for me, and a novelty for most of the people I spoke with. The idea was to have my process on display, showing how I form ideas and make my work. I really enjoyed the many interactions and conversations I had about art, nature, and botanical politics.
After reflecting on my time at the Gardens, I decided to create a series of paintings in considered response to those paper works, using the portrait of the garden in details and the grid format of interacting organic forms, but giving them more space to breathe as individual images.
These paintings are less about time and place, they’re more closely related to my usual body of work.
As with my time at the gardens, the point of this exhibition is partly to show a process, how an idea evolves and develops through progressive stages, and how I end up creating the work I do”
Contact the gallery for a complete exhibition catalogue