“areas in which the imagination awaits”
Minus their inhabitants and frequenters, places one might normally consider banal and unimaginative such as subdivisions, kerbside lawns, underground carparks and expansive malls are rendered eerie and haunting by Ruth Cleland’s meticulous drawings and paintings.
Aspects of familiar and overlooked spaces Cleland has lived in and around are captured, such as new suburban developments in Mosgiel and Hamilton, commercial escalators and sliding doors as well as innocuous and domestic interior spaces such as fragments of room corners and stairwells. Uneasiness ensues…
Reality is managed and made neat as a pin through Cleland’s precise and photo-realist technique. Trained as an aquatint printmaker which required careful preparation and attention to detail, Cleland eventually introduced pencil into her practice by improving her prints through adding details in the medium combining printmaking and drawing. Both her paintings and drawings are absolutely accurate and range from small intimate post-card size to larger architectural-plan scale. By focusing more on works in acrylic on canvas as well as pencil Cleland has left behind the rarefied atmosphere of aquatint for the everyday-ness of simple materials.
Recently Cleland has started to include within her works portions of grids, the very ones used to transfer and enlarge her drawings square by square from photographs. By leaving behind such grids the viewer is privy to Cleland’s meticulous practice. Once completely illusory black and white images indistinguishable from photographic prints begin to display the remnants of their own artifice and construction. Like a magician revealing the secrets of his tricks, Cleland lays her process bare for all the world to see and makes drawing itself the subject matter of her practice.
Cleland’s work subverts the beloved landscape painting genre. The sheer amount of time, effort and virtuosity she confers onto her subject matter gives it a bewildering amount of importance and makes the viewer question what counts as a scenic view. Arbitrarily placed cul de sacs, crescents and tired shopping malls are given an astonishing amount of value by Cleland’s unrelenting technique and lovingly rendered portrayals. Perhaps testifying to pilgrimages to the suburban mall or New Zealand’s love affair with property, Cleland always encourages us to take a second look at urban landscapes and interiors that are usually ignored.
Ruth Cleland (b.1976) currently lives and works in Auckland and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from the Otago School of Art, Dunedin in 2002. Since then she has exhibited nationally and internationally in private galleries as well as public art institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include: Concrete Abstraction (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2016), Grid (Window Gallery, 2014), Island (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2012), Mall (Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland and Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington 2010 and Red Mill Gallery, Vermont Studio Centre, Vermont 2009) and Sunny Days (Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin, 2006). Cleland has received many prestigious awards for her works including the Paramount Award at the Team McMillan BMW Art Awards (2010), a Merit Award at the National Drawing Awards (Artspace, Physics Room, Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2008) and the Park Lane Wallace Trust Development Award which included a three-month artist residency in Vermont, U.S.A. in 2009. Works by Cleland are in prominent art collections including: Chartwell Collection, James Wallace Arts Trust and the Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin.
Ruth Cleland has an upcoming solo exhibition of new work at Melanie Roger Gallery in late March 2018.
For additional information and a complete CV please contact the gallery.
 Ruth Cleland quoted by Warwick Brown in Seen This Century: 100 Contemporary New Zealand Artists. A Collector’s Guide (Random House New Zealand: Auckland, 2009), p.68.
INLAND EMPIRE: RUTH CLELAND AND GARY MCMILLAN
Steph Chalmers, University of Waikato catalogue
CLELAND AND MCMILLAN
Peter Dornauf, Eyecontact
IS LESS MORE?
Hamish Coney, Idealog
RUTH CLELAND: MALL
Ruth Cleland, Gus Fisher Gallery catalogue
Warwick Brown, Seen This Century, Godwiit
UTOPIA OR NIGHTMARE?
Virginia Were, Art News
RUTH CLELAND AT HOCKEN LIBRARY
Cassandra Fusco, Asian Art News
- Ruth Cleland | Urban Worlds | Aigantighe Gallery
- Ruth Cleland | Art NZ magazine
- Art Week 2016
- Ruth Cleland | Ocular Fusion | Fox Jensen Gallery
- Public Programmes | Ruth Cleland Artist Talk
- An Occasional Rant | Female representation in New Zealand Galleries
- Richard Orjis & Ruth Cleland | Suburban Dreams | Dowse Art Museum
- RUTH CLELAND | NEW URBAN REALISTS | EASTERN SOUTHLAND GALLERY & MILLENIUM GALLERY
- RUTH CLELAND | Grid | Window Gallery
- Ruth Cleland | Constant Practice | Franklin Arts Centre
- Ruth Cleland | As If You Were Bringing Back Dust From The Moon | Papakura Art Gallery
- Ruth Cleland | Inland Empire | Corbans Estate Arts Centre
- Ruth Cleland | Idyll
- RUTH CLELAND & MARTIN POPPELWELL in Architecture of the Heart | MTG Hawkes Bay
- Ruth Cleland | Inland Empire