These six works relate to a journey in a glass-bottomed boat around the marine sanctuary of Goat Island. As we left the shore, a sequence of changes passed across the glass. Initially, white foam under the glass obscured our view of the blue water, (Vermeer 39), but this was soon replaced by clouds of sand (Vermeer 40) which stirred the water into a thick, viscous green. This then gave way to lush vegetation in vibrant greens, highlighted with yellow-gold sunlight, (Vermeer 41). The plants’ leaves, some narrow and some broad, had different textures. Some had crinkle-edged fronds and others had rows of air-filled pods, buoying the leaves so they caught the polarised rays of sunshine. More air bubbles clung to the glass, reminding us that we were separated from and not immersed in this parallel world. The bubbles were marble-sized and had blue edges. They rolled across the glass window, with the fronds and foliage visible beyond, (Vermeer 42). Then the bubbles disappeared, and we were in deeper water. Shoals of fish teamed everywhere, at every level. The nearest ones were silver-white and clear in the filtered sunlight. Further down they appeared darker in colour but still distinct, (Vermeer 43). The last image I recall is framed with dark rocks deep below and, beyond them, pale sand, with a single shadowy fish in the distance but with a clearly defined silhouette, swimming slowly across and out of view, (Vermeer 44).
The six panels were painted in sequence, each experience merging into the next. As a single painting they remind me of planet Earth seen from space. Above, the works are in order and are viewed from right to left, Vermeer 39 on the right and Vermeer 44 on the left.
The Oceania Series of Vermeer reliefs
Rebecca Newnham 2020
The Vermeer series is a series of curved relief panels. Their reflective glass surfaces refract the room or the environment so that the viewer’s perception switches between the image and the reflection. Each piece starts by painting onto glass with enamels, which is then fired to fix the pigments into the glass. The glass is then cut and collaged to create a faceted, pixilated image. The shape of each Vermeer is a shallow, tensioned curve, like the lens of the eye.
The Oceania series is a group of works that reflect a trip to Tokyo and to Auckland early in 2020. Most have a relationship to water – either a beach, a lake, or the ocean – and to the natural and spiritual world. As Covid-19 was taking hold and the virus spread, they served to emphasise the value of the fiercely protected, unspoilt natural beauty of New Zealand and the restraint, focus and social consciousness of Japanese society at a time when the whole world is looking closely at itself and revaluating.
Medium: Enamelled glass, timber
Dimensions each: 920 x 920x 100mm