Cave Colours

Jun 8 to Jun 28
Gary FreemantleCave Modern.


Earth colours have become synonymous with the Italianate terms Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and so on. The provenance of these brown colours, that we receive in this part of the world are mostly dubious and not really relevant to a NZ landscape context.

“My main purpose is to increase public awareness and draw attention to the unique beauty and creative possibilities of NZ earth ochres and prove that earth colours can also be bright blues, greens, yellows, and reds rather than the drab browns of common misconception.”

This exhibition brings together recent colour chart paintings mixing in new colour discoveries from around the Auckland region, including Coromandel.

The new series of “Crackup” paintings combine images of geological structures from the Coromandel and the material from the location itself.

“I often try to make a connection between the earth material and the image. Part of the content is that the material retains its integrity from the source. Colours are not mixed, but used as they are found.”


The source for this series of earth based works arrived on Freemantle’s doorstep at Paekakariki during the floods of 2003 when muddy deposits were left after the water subsided. The first of these mud landscapes began what art writer and collector Warwick Brown calls “a journey of discovery that saw him roaming over the landscape, not just to find suitable subjects to paint, but to locate his painting materials.” (Art NZ Number 152 / Summer 2014-15)

Travel through the landscape has for a long time been the subject of his work from the horizons of his Wairarapa landscapes of the 1980’s to the film strip landscapes of the late 1990’s and 2000’s. Images of side of the road landscape presented to convey movement with images that are caught as we drive by. This is often how we experience the landscape, fleetingly from a car window.

Now travel provides the material for Freemantle’s paintings. He has now collected hundreds of earth samples from around the country, constantly exploring in new regions discovering colours which are all different.

Part of this process of finding new colours involves making charts with notations cataloguing where the colours are from. “It’s important to me that that the material is sourced personally, because the concept combines the visible with memories and other associations. It is specific and about place”.

These charts have become the basis of a series of paintings that expand on the colour chart format to go beyond mere research forming abstract paintings that not only evoke landscape they are literally landscape.