Topic: Doreen McNeill: Exquisite Informal Abstraction

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Leading Tauranga abstract painter Doreen McNeill has work in the permanent collections of Baypark Arena, Tauranga Hospital and the Tauranga Art Gallery. Trained as a draughtsman, Doreen was employed for many years drawing navigational charts for aircraft.

As we talk in her well organised, roomy Tauranga studio and study she says, "the precision of my chart work is probably why I now so enjoy giving my imagination free reign with all the colours and textures that modern paints allow".

"My paintings are emotional works and inspiration comes as I apply paint to canvas allowing it to form organic shapes and textures.

"This happens almost by itself.”

The paintings can be described as informal abstract giving more freedom and a wider permissiveness than a strict abstract label would allow.

Doreen McNeill in her Tauranga studio.

When I delve a little further Doreen tells me that she never paints specific places but begins a work with random colours and shapes allowing the paint to guide her.

She enjoys the actual process of painting and tries not to lay down definite plans so that the outcome of her work can be a wonderful surprise.

"I relish the journey of exploration that this approach gives and although I probably waste rather a lot of paint the excitement engendered is incomparable and I am sometimes thrilled with the result.

"If not I start again another day.”

I am completely captivated by the feeling of being way out at sea when I look at the large painting by Doreen called 'Swell'.

The colours and brushwork completely capture the mood and movement of the vast ocean environment.

Doreen paints in acrylics and often waters them down to give a washed watercolour look to her paintings. She builds up exquisite layers of colour to give the painting depth and texture.


"Swell'' by Doreen McNeill  Acrylic on canvas  1220 x 1220mm

Doreen has been a professional painter for many years, has shown work throughout New Zealand and had a very well received retrospective exhibition at the Tauranga Art Gallery in April 2010.

One of the things I like about Doreen as an artist and her art is her 'down to earth ' approach.

There is no pretense or airy-fairyness that we sometimes encounter in art and by some of those associated with art.

I get the impression that for Doreen the painted image is the thing and that in addition to the emotion associated with the art making process she is primarily interested in making exciting and viable visual statements by exploring the use of colour, texture and shapes.

Those who have Doreen McNeill paintings in their collections never tire of them because they enjoy the way the paint has been so skillfully applied and keep discovering new exciting visual nuances long after the painting has been hung.

These are paintings to contemplate quietly by taking timeout from our busy lives. I liken looking at some of Doreen's paintings to those restful times when we lie back, look up at the clouds passing and make our own pictures from the shapes they form.

In November Doreen will be exhibiting as part of the group exhibition 'Masterclass – All things Floral' at the Creative Tauranga Community Gallery on Willow Street in downtown Tauranga. 

The opening, for what promises to be a memorable show, is November 1 from 5.30 – 7.30pm.

The exhibition will run until November 27.

Doreen's work can now be seen at the new Lightwave Gallery on Mount Maunganui's Totara Street.

You can see more of Doreen's work at  and contact her by emailing

by Pete Morris (October 2012).

Pete Morris is an occasional painter and an art lover. He is a freelance writer with a particular interest in promoting the visual arts in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.

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Doreen McNeill: Exquisite Informal Abstraction

First Names:Doreen
Last Name:McNeill

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