Friday, August 12, 2011

New from the studio

Hi. I'm writing this from Christchurch. I flew up last night in order to attend the opening (at 5.30PM this evening) of En Masse, the first in a series of 'pop-up' exhibitions staged by my long-time dealer gallery The Arthouse. En Masse includes work by sixteen artists and is the first 'in-the-flesh' show Norma and Peter have staged since having to evacuate their beautiful space in the CBD after the February 22 earthquake. 

Below are two works I completed for this exhibition - Murmur and I meant it to be a poem about sparrows and the silence that followed. . .  

Murmur - Charcoal & pastel on paper 2011 

I'm immersed in a sequence of drawings and paintings at the moment that are an attempt to address the profound and progressive wounding we have inflicted - and continue to inflict - on our earth, and to give voice to the urgency of our engagement and of our doing what we can to facilitate her preservation and healing. When it comes to matters of protest, my intention is always to find a way 'through the gaps', to communicate in language that evokes rather than provokes. I want very much to make work that acknowledges current realities in all their darkness and starkness and at the same time focusses in on beauty and wonder, mystery, poetry and lyricism. I hope to pose questions and to peel back the 'layers of the obvious' revealing the subtler notes that suggest there's a 'world of more' breathing below the surface of everything we know and that resides beyond what we can see and/or understand. (This may in part explain the appearance of X-ray-type imagery in this new work?)

There's a synchronistic little story behind the second image I'm posting here. This drawing was already well underway when I came upon The Sparrows, a poem posted by Christchurch-based writer, Helen Lowe. Helen had posted The Sparrows as her Tuesday Poem; this poem is one in a series she refers to as her Earthquake Witness sequence. The opening and closing lines of The Sparrows resonated particularly powerfully for me and seemed to be speaking directly into/out of the drawing I was engaged with. I asked Helen if I could 'borrow' the opening two lines as a title and possibly also include the poem with my finished piece on this exhibition. She generously agreed - and it will be great to see her at the opening a few hours from now. . .  

I meant it to be a poem about sparrows and the silence that followed. . . 
Charcoal, pastel & watercolour pencil on paper - 2011

Following the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch, the birds fled the city, rendering the broken landscape all the starker through the absence of birdsong. . The closing lines of Helen's poem read -
". . . And then, finally, they came / their wings clouding the sun."


It would be wonderful to see Christchurch blogging friends at the opening. . . This is late notice, I know, but please do come if you can? Activities get under way at 5.30PM this evening. Where? Upstairs in the NZ Health Food Co. building, 215 Wooldridge Road, HarewoodFor friends further afield, I invite you to browse the work online by visiting Norma & Peter's virtual gallery (web technology is amazing, really - you can 'walk' around the space, zoom into images and see the mark-making with absolute clarity, swirl, twirl and whirl. . .)

Sending best thoughts to you all. 

PS. I forgot to mention I'm going to be away - on retreat - out on the magnificent Banks Peninsula for a few days following this exhibition opening. . . Back home mid-next week (weather permitting - heavy snow is forecast this weekend ; )).


  1. Art like yours does not require an explanation, although I appreciate it.

    It manages to evoke much in its juxtaposition of healing beneath the surface and what appears to be (in my interpretation) a more abstract expression? of modern times.

    Or I could have just said that I like your work;)

  2. Those are amazing!
    It's like chaos theory visualized.

  3. Sorry, too late for me to make the opening. I do hope it went well, I love your work.

  4. there is something i am trying to put into words about your artworks here, and i don't want to sound stupid, so please forgive me if i dont quite manage to say what i mean. but what draws me in these images is the way the lower portions make me think of the human skeleton, delicate abstract renditions of it, very beautiful, but buried under the earth, like bones. it somehow likens the earth to humans in the sense of wounding, of vulnerability. it makes me feel these images intensely, even though i can't quite explain.

  5. Ant, thanks - ideally, art speaks/engages us on its own own terms, without our explanation. . . I often feel conflicted about adding words to the mix but in their way they help (me?) to synthesize what's in me as an image makes its way onto the page. To be honest, half the time I don't know what's going to appear, only that something will. This series is very much an interpretation of current times, yes. Thank you for seeing this - and for saying you like what's happening. ; )

  6. dbs - chaos theory visualized? Wow. There is certainly a great deal of chaos in their making! (And yes, I know that's not what you mean! I will have to revisit the theory now to see if I can see the correlations. . . ), Thanks, dbs.

  7. Hi Catherine - I was dreadfully late with notifications about this show, I know - and I'm sorry. It would have been good to meet you. As it is, my daughter and I are still in Chch. Bus services between here and Dunedin have been cancelled this week, so we've ended up staying on for a while longer than initially anticipated, but I left my good snow-walking boots at home (still wet from a beach walk!), so haven't been out in the weather much since getting back to town. (We just made it over the peninsula hills on Sunday before the fronts 'proper' came through). Next time I come up (Spring!) it would be great to have a get-together with local TP poets. Take care, Catherine, apologies for the essay, and keep warm! L, C

  8. Dear Marylinn
    Thank you, too.
    ( ( ((((o))) ) )
    and much love xo

  9. Dear Angella
    You have synthesized my intentions beautifully - ". . . it somehow likens the earth to humans in the sense of wounding, of vulnerability. . " Thank you for seeing this, and for the way you have expressed it. I'm working on a series of these, each one with references to a different skeletal feature, braced, wrapped, stitched. . . i.e. lovingly attended to, for the purposes of facilitating healing. There's a lot of light in that darkness, in those underground spaces and it wants illuminating. . . Love to you, Claire xo

  10. Your works are mesmerizing. Jane x

  11. Jane - thank you for finding these images mesmerizing. I think that when we turn to our earth, she is a patient teacher. My hope is to find ways to acknowledge her and to express my appreciation of her; making work about her feels like offering her a tribute - small homage, I know, but heartfelt.
    Love to you and thanks for your recent e-, Jane, which I have yet to respond to. x