Acrylic on canvas
1370 x 875mm
From 1962 to 1964, Mrkusich worked on a series of paintings called Emblems. In these he introduced circles, squares, isolated lines and parallelograms over freely brushed areas. These paintings were very different from the “action” paintings which had occupied him during the previous two years in that Mrkusich now introduced a greater degree of intellectual calculation into his work by the positioning of hard, geometrical linear elements. His earlier work had involved expressionistic, flowing gestural rhythms in which geometrical rigour was sometimes suggested but never defined.
The title The Contained Waters beautifully expresses the artist’s intention – that of giving structure to the formless. Mrkusich has now contained the light blue (watery?) sections of this painting. In the lower section he has continued to use the fluid brushwork which characterised his earlier work from 1960 but now each colour area is bound within a tight compositional frame rather than being allowed to spread. The regularity of the brown, red and gold circles used in this work is something quite new for Mrkusich. In looking at this painting one can see him moving away from the influence of the often violently worked canvasses of American abstract expressionism towards a more linear style which, with hindsight, is where his work has always been leading. His next period refined this new rationalised approach; circles and squares dominate his Elements; gestural, expressionistic brushwork is replaced by smoother, less heavily worked textures.
Representation and Reaction: Modernism and the New Zealand Landscape Tradition 1956–1977, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui, 31 August to 27 October 2002 (toured)
Contemporary Painting in New Zealand, Commonwealth Institute, London, November 1965