Herb Foley and his wife Nesta moved to Kerikeri, when their home was rendered uninhabitable after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
The paintings in Herb’s 2013 exhibition “ Adsum” ( I am here ) was the result of two years work, his first major body of work since the move north. Herb had another very successful exhibition Paint on Paint in July/August in 2015, and he continues to paint enthousiastically, his canvases getting larger , his work still evolving and changing.
There is a joyfulness in Herb’s new collection, his work inspired by scenes from Northland bush and undergrowth that are vibrant, colourful and energetic. Foley admires German painter Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings, and he is trying to achieve Richter’s impact and strength in his new semi abstract/figurative paintings.
Warren Feeney wrote in Art New Zealand : “Herb’s paintings of the natural environment and its ecosystems belong to an enduring iconography in New Zealand art, that has remained of interest to artists for nearly 250 years. The journals of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson revealed a scientific and philosophical admiration for the native plants and geology of the country that reflected Rousseau’s belief in an uncivilised natural landscape and its potential for the redemption of civilised humanity. ”
As an artist who travelled extensively prior to settling in New Zealand in 1973, Foley shares something of the wonder and perceptions of artists such as Parkinson and Sharpe, coming to a new land and experiencing, for the first time, the Pacific light and its environment. Over the past 20 years he has exhibited a series of paintings of Pacific plants and creatures that have similarly invited associations with the spiritual and metaphysical . Foley’s paintings have been described as a “paean to nature” and a “joyous celebration, lovingly painted with the qualities of icons.”
TJ McNamara said of Foley’s past works “ the images are complex patterns of life. Each painting moves from the undergrowth to the treetops…The undergrowth is populated by creatures, all painted with great subtlety and interwoven so the eye makes small discoveries everywhere. The work is a huge metaphor of modern life filled with speculation – not of the wonder of life but of the inexplicable problems of art, science and existence.”
“Natural Abstracts” was Foley’s last exhibition at Kaan Zamaan last November. He has since had an exhibition in Auckland, and is currently working on a new series. I hope to have his paintings in stock again by November 2017 for the new gallery space on Kemp Road.
Below, images of paintings in the most recent ” Natural Abstracts” exhibition.