• Ben Buchanan

Typical Leaves is Ben Buchanan’s inaugural exhibition at McLeavey Gallery. It brings together new paintings that closely follow on from his current exhibition at City Gallery Wellington, SOUR GRAPES, which represents the culmination of more than 25 years practising art.

Buchanan describes his practice to date as largely focused on “abstraction” and “pattern-making” – terms he uses deliberately to reference divergent and overlapping traditions found in Western and Indigenous art history. However recently his work has adopted illustrative aspects and, while still clearly interested in repetition and non-figurative mark making, this extended new series of paintings constitutes a significant development and renewal. Coming out of an intense, dedicated period of experimentation and investigation, during which time he completed a Master of Fine Arts at Massey University Wellington, Buchanan characterises this new body of paintings as his best work yet.

Taking inspiration from a vast milieu of cultural production including music, architecture, painting and poetry, Buchanan creates painterly environments that appear to exist outside a specific time or place. Popular, established tropes – such as a Modernist rejection of realistic depiction – mix with fringe cultural references in a non-hierarchical ecosystem.

Recurring motifs move in and out of the work. Ambiguous, yet familiar images of leaves, trees, pipes, spheres, bubbles, drumsticks – visual cues to art history and the natural and built environment – are suspended in strange painterly fields. An ever expanding set of image combinations make the paintings feel infinite.

Bursting with psychedelic colour, the works conjure disco parties, hallucinogenic dreams and utopian visions. Yet they are also very much grounded in contemporary concerns around the anthropocene. Painted over the summer of 2022–2023 it is possible to read the works in relation to recent extreme weather events in which forestry debris littered shorelines and wreaked havoc. The juxtaposition of natural and synthetic images invites questions about the human effect on the environment.

Ultimately however the paintings find strength in their ambiguity and nuance. Hovering in a liminal space between abstraction and figuration, high and low, natural and synthetic, Western and Māori, Buchanan creates a space of equilibrium that allows for conversation about contemporary issues.

While challenging traditional understandings of linearity, genre and culture, Typical Leaves remains radically generous and open to different understandings and interpretations.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday - Friday, 11am–5pm
  • Saturday, 11am–4pm


  • 147 Cuba Street
  • Te Aro
  • Pōneke Wellington