Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

Weighted yet free

Marlee McMahon’s Heavy Kite

A heavy kite is a complex construction.

There is a warmth and softness to Marlee McMahon’s Heavy Kite, a consequence of materials and methods as much as colour. The artist speaks of wanting to shift her practice, not radically (the graphic strength associated with earlier works persists), but meaningfully. She has utilised more curves, opted for oil paint over acrylic, and moved away from masking tape, which limits her ability to consider a work as a whole and can encourage retreat into familiar compositional strategies. She speaks of wanting to ‘reground painting’, to create opportunities for greater experimentation and spontaneity. Forms in one of the first works made for the show, Paper Slide, derive from a paper collage. McMahon moved the structure about the canvas, feeling for pictorial rightness. The resulting painting captures something of the delicacy of paper. There is a sense, too, that the elements remain unfixed. One almost wants to reach out and push them around.

A heavy kite takes time to ascend.

The influences on Hill’s work are diverse. Literature has occupied a key position in her research of late. She is an Other works took cues from a series of small oil paintings—themselves exercises in improvisation—produced by McMahon during a lockdown earlier this year. A motif from such a study appears in Slots. Picked out in red, it has been used as a sort of tile; iterations frame and seem to overlap the dark central rectangle. McMahon’s process is deliberate, her compositions the result of both intuition and calculation. She outlines and adjusts. Quick decisions are refined, enough to stabilise, not enough to stultify. Edges are demarcated with a fine brush. Planes of colour are carefully developed. Days of drying time are allowed, so that the hand-hewn forms will be maximally clean and consistent. Some are ultimately painted out. Their contours remain visible through the upper layers, like pentimenti ghosting pictures by ‘old masters’, like veins swelling beneath skin. …


Continue reading on the Visions website.

Heavy Kite
Marlee McMahon

5 August to 4 September 2021
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

By Francis McWhannell
Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker


Francis McWhannell (b. 1985, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a writer and exhibition-maker based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. He is Curatorial Adviser for the dealer gallery Visions, and Curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art founded in 1962.