Oscar Perry and Trevelyan Clay’s exhibition offers two different but related views of contemporary abstract painting in an Australasian context. Having just completed a residency at the historic Driving Creek Potteries in Coromandel, Perry has produced a suite of ceramic relief works, painted with his characteristic vigour and wit. Trevelyan Clay’s works on canvas present a series of contemplative, hypnotic abstract compositions that, alongside Perry’s muscular ceramics, offer their own nuanced approach.
The title of the exhibition refers to the last words of Bavarian mountaineer Toni Kurz, who was famously the last of five mountaineers who lost their lives during the 1936 Eiger climbing disaster. Kurz’ final utterance, translated in English as “I can’t anymore,” was spoken immediately before his death, while suspended from a rope within touching distance of a team of climbers attempting to rescue him.
The cliche of painting as a mountain to be climbed—a heroic task to be undertaken only by those blessed with the mantle of genius—is undermined by the idea of such a climber failing at the final hurdle, freezing to death and abandoning the ascent. The pine trees that occupy the gallery’s floorspace point towards a similar narrative of intrepid European conquest of nature, but in a New Zealand context become faintly ridiculous.
These trees are one element of the performativity with which Perry and Clay present their work, a position that acknowledges and interrogates the narrative implications of the painterly act.
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