Autumn is here and the leaves of deciduous trees are showing us their red, yellow and golden tones as the chlorophyll in them breaks down and they begin to fall. Gardens are full of seeds, rosehips and other fruits. While the weather has continued to be favourable I’ve been visiting parks, gardens and nature reserves to research and develop artworks.
This small artwork (detail below) was made in late March, using faded hydrangeas from my garden and wilting pale green roses left over from St Patrick’s Day.
This autumn has been a tumultuous and sad time for New Zealand in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks of March 15th. On that day I took a walk on Bastion Point to see the regenerating forest that Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have been replanting. I made a small picture using some foliage from the memorial and replanted forest, a mix of New Zealand species with rosemary and lavender. I was thinking about the climate change strikes that school students around the world were involved in when I made this picture.
This month the government has announced the creation of Te Ora Auaha: Creative Wellbeing Alliance Aotearoa, a national arts and health network. It feels like a timely and positive step given recent events.
I visited the Sensory Garden in Auckland Domain on March 13th and made two artworks using a few sprigs of the fragrant plants that I found there. When my son was a baby I would walk him around this small and soothing garden, a oasis of calm and quiet amid the noise of Newmarket. Being outside in nature and making art can offer some solace and peace in times of sorrow, illness and other difficulties.
Creative New Zealand has been asking artists to tag photos of artworks made in response to the Christchurch terror attacks with the hashtag #CreateAroha. Stephen Wainright, their Chief Executive/Pou Whakahaere writes: “I see each creative expression as a thread denoting dignity and mana, woven into a digital korowai to nourish and protect us, and demonstrate our unity, in solidarity against hatred.”
Sensory Garden (pictured below) is my contribution to this project.
The Sensory Garden in Lilac artwork (detail below) is available as a digital download via my Patreon page.
An artwork for the annual Estuary Art Awards has been a focus for me over the past couple of months. I have made numerous visits to both sides of the Tāmaki Estuary to research this, photographing the coastal plants and collecting materials for nature printing. It has been interesting to compare foliage from the different parts of the Estuary that I’ve visited, and to learn more about the ecosystems in and around the Tāmaki Estuary. On a clear and calm day I walked to the end of the Tahuna Torea sandspit and dipped my feet in the water, watching the incoming tide and the river merging. Despite problems with pollution the Tāmaki Estuary is full of life and where it is protected the coastal foliage is varied and abundant.
Mangrove flowers, Pakuranga
Samphire and Reeds, Tahuna Torea
Wiwi, Tahuna Torea
I’ve continued photographing tropical plants and painting some artworks in brighter tones over autumn. This is a ongoing project as the colours and forms of tropical plants are a constant source of wonder and inspiration for me.
Eden Gardens, Auckland
Blue tones found their way into my artworks again over the past month. This artwork (detail below) using Fern, Wisteria and Spearmint was made in response to the recent death of a talented man who made a strong impression on all who knew him. Words fail me sometimes and I have only the artwork and photography to somehow express a little of the thoughts and emotions of the past two months.
Petunias at the Wintergarden, Auckland Domain
I was fortunate to photograph plants and flowers at the Quarry Gardens again over Easter and I’ll share some more of these on my Instagram @celestesterling. I find photographing plants and flowers an enjoyable and fulfilling part of the creative process. I’m looking forward to some studio time in term 2 to finish the Estuary artworks and a visit to the Auckland Art Fair next week.
Celeste Sterling, Autumn 2019
Ceratostigma flowers, Quarry Gardens Whangarei
Silk Floss tree, Quarry Gardens Whangarei