Midwinter, June 2016

Tahuna Torea

This month we passed the Winter Solstice and in New Zealand it is also the time of year known as Matariki, the Maori New Year. In many traditions midwinter is a time for quiet reflection and renewal. So I will be reviewing my artwork of the past few months with this in mind and making plans for the coming seasons.

In last month’s blog I wrote about the Estuary Art Awards and the research I was doing to prepare an entry for this competition. I did a pair of paintings entitled Aestuarium, Land and Sea, in acrylic on linen for the award using foliage gathered from the Tamaki Estuary area.

Aestuarium, LandAestuarium, Sea

The Tamaki Estuary area is a rich ecosystem and I discovered many varieties of plants growing on the banks of the sea and in the bush nearby. Native trees and plants in nearby Tahuna Torea reserve included Taraire, Kahikatea, Rimu, Kawaka, Swamp Maire and Pukatea. Because this is a protected area I had to use some leaves from other areas nearby including mangrove leaf skeletons in the blue painting. Invasive introduced species and contaminants threaten both the native bush and wetland areas as well as the native fish species that rely on these habitats. I was fortunate to find a couple of fallen Kauri leaves which I used in the work to make leaf prints. The Kauri is an ancient species of tree, once plentiful in New Zealand but which in recent times has come under threat from a mysterious disease.

Kauri sketch

I also visited the Auckland Art Gallery this month to view two exhibitions, Fiona Pardington’s photographic works and Space to Dream, Recent Art from South America. Fiona Pardington’s large scale photographs are fascinating. Having a strong interest in the historic Dutch still life tradition I really enjoyed the opportunity to view her large contemporary still life photographs. The combination of flora, fruit, personal relics and contemporary objects results in compelling images.

Space to Dream is an interesting exhibition with a very broad scope. Some of the works deal with very painful events. I found Maximo Corvalan’s Proyecto ADN (DNA Project), a work about locating the remains of missing people using DNA testing very disturbing.

DNA Project

The large installation by Ernesto Neto at the end of the exhibition is also a highlight and smells gorgeous due to the inclusion of many spices.


There is so much foliage in my work these days that it feels worlds away from the very concrete urban environment of central Auckland and other cities I have lived in. Fortunately Auckland has some lovely old parks such as the Domain and Albert Park to provide some balance. Most of my time is spent close to home and I always seem to return from every walk with a pocket full of leaves. I’ve broadened the range of foliage I’m using in all the artworks. Plans for the coming months include some works that will continue to deal with the theme of local ecology.

Aroha nui