"Artists capture emotions"

Review - The (Christchurch) Press | Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Flower Girls: works by Beverly Rhodes in the Canaday Gallery, COCA

Beverly Rhodes completed her Masters of Fine Arts in 2004. Many artists claim to examine the human condition yet there are few that are formally qualified to do so. Rhodes is a fascinating exception, having completed her Masters in clinical psychology in 1990. This mix of disciplines is evident in her work.

She has settled into a style that promotes her strengths as a painter focused on the internal. Fleshing out the fears and fetishes that lurk within yet affect us deeply. In this sense Rhodes fits within the Canterbury Gothic scene, the general ambience of Rhodes' work echoes Barry Cleavin and Jason Grieg.

Rhodes' palette comprises of dark browns and vintage pastels, rose pinks that have been washed over by decades. In each of the six canvasses in Flower Girls a girl is paired with a cat. Whether the cat is real, stuffed or a toy is left crucially unresolved. They are fundamentally lonely scenes with haunting subjects. The girls hover in the darkness, their pallid faces and grimy dresses are almost ghostly. Rhodes succeeds in creating a body of work that draws questions. Each girl seems to be a victim of something. Just what has been done to these innocents?

But it is not so straightforward. Rhodes plays on the stereotype of the damsel. These are fragile specimens of humanity that have been abandoned, as have the cats. Her subjects are intimately involved with their surroundings. Innocence is toyed with as the girls alternately manhandle, caress, and stare indifferently at their feline associates.

One girl gently but determinedly throttles her cat looking as if she is exacting revenge for her own misfortune. Flower Girls is a rewarding exploration of disturbing relationships of power and the emotions they evoke.

Reviewed by Jamie Hanton