Candi Dentice

Clipped, 2013, Oil on Italian linen, 860mm x 700mm


Candi Dentice is an artist with conscience. In her oil paintings nature is tightly ordered and contained. She has a Magritte-like attention to detail and her work is symbolic and allegorical, but unlike Rene Magritte and the Surrealists her focus is on ecology, the plight and fate of the natural world; the view outside our window.

Origami is a recurring motif. Flocks of paper birds take wing and paper boats are set adrift. Dentice’s style is bittersweet, her paintings evoke fragility. In Dawn and Dusk shadows stretch across panoramic vistas of sea and sky. The mood in her illustrative landscapes is wistful. The folded birds and boats become totemic, traces of the human hand. The delicate art of origami is matched by Dentice. Her paintings render and record an artificial world populated by native trees and leaves. Her level of skill is so convincing that it can take time to comprehend that her landscapes are fictitious; false.

Each painting is informed by close preparatory study. Dentice draws from nature. Semi-transparent glazes are applied to the finished surface of her works. Her small paintings are lovely and luminous, but her compositions are also choreographed to unsettle. In Choices a fleet of gigantic paper fortunetellers intercepts a group of trees. The connection is immediate; the fortunetellers function like koans raising questions; generating doubts. The climate in Dentice’s paintings is indeterminate. An atmosphere of jeopardy persists. Nature is ordered, pruned and preserved. Dentice uses repetition and pattern to critique cloning and overdevelopment. Her work bristles with a sense of preciousness. In Archive a selection of trees are placed in transparent boxes like bell jars. In her recent image, Rest, the trees in the foreground gradually fade to a spartan horizon: a vision of a future less fortunate.

In 2012 Dentice accompanied a scientific team to Lake Rotomahana to record the remains of the Pink and White Terraces, which have been located in the lake buried beneath sediment. It is an unusual decision for a contemporary artist to revisit this site: the Terraces were once referred to as the eighth wonder of the world and are a landscape steeped in 19th century paintings of the sublime. Her resultant body of work captures the regeneration of the area but her attraction to the Pink and White Terraces is more than just confectionary. Fissure, Rift and Nostalgia offer glacial glimpses of the landscape both past and present. The history of the terraces contains prophecy. Legend tells of a ghost waka seen crossing Lake Tarawera before the eruption, an omen of disaster.

Candi Dentice’s paintings of nature are clinically beautiful but also coolly prophetic, ever aware of what the world might look like tomorrow.

Essay by Megan Dunn



Born: Auckland

Lives: Auckland

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland; Diploma in Graphics, Auckland University of Technology

Public Exhibitions: Enchanted Gardens, Festival of Flowers, Christchurch (2014)

Articles: ‘Swift eye and slow-building tension’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Nov 2009; ‘Arts laureate turns on bursts of colour’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Nov 2006; ‘When Beauty Subsides…’, Art News New Zealand, Autumn 2007, pp 80-84

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