Misleading landscapes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 1994, 12:00am

THE title, A Dreamer in a Landscape, is a misleading introduction to what is a brilliant exhibition by Victor Lai, primarily a painter of people and still life. A better title might have been, In the Mirror, for this is the subject of many of the works.

Lai is by far the best oil painter in the territory - indeed he measures up as significant in any context. He is assured, resourceful, technically adept, and has an exciting colour sense.

The fusion of figures and mirrored images is open to all sorts of interpretation and Lai uses sinuous forms and sensuous colours to take the viewer far from the literal world into the realm of Narcissus, of self-criticism and frank self-appraisal.

Still life provides another outlet for Lai's strong colour sense and his awareness of texture and multiple relationships.

With flowers, Lai departs from his more usual green-red-yellow-black palette to use a strong blue in Vase of Flowers by the Window and again in An Indian Dream of Violin and Flowers. Perhaps the most resonant painting is Still Life with Wine and Guitar.

Lai has not really decided what he wants to say about landscape nor has he found a convincing way to deal with it. The Stanley Bay pieces are essays in lovely colour, but are self-indulgent and don't really work as landscapes.

But the excellence of his self portraits, the view of his studio and the imaginative qualities demonstrated in the rest of the exhibition, give the assurance that landscape will soon be an integral factor in the equation.

Victor Lai, A Dreamer in a Landscape, Gallery 7, ends today