Spode Tattoo Kowhai, finalist NZ Painting and Printmaking Awards 2015 (image above left)
Spode Tattoo Hanging Kowhai, finalist Walker and Hall Waiheke Art Awards 2016 (image above right)
I am developing my own ‘herbarium’ of native NZ plants, taken from my late father’s garden, photographed to be ‘scientifically’ documented, and painted to be infused with china patterns from my female ancestors.
This body of work reflects on family, generations and the process of becoming.
Acrylic paint on photograph (my own; archival inks) on canvas, matt varnished.
I am also screenprinting and hand painting a series of prints titled 'Spode Tattoo Blue'.
My first Spode Tattoo painting, a Kowhai, was a finalist in the NZ Painting and Printmaking Awards 2015.
And another painting in this series, 'Spode Tattoo Hanging Kowhai', was a finalist in the 2016 Walker and Hall Waiheke Art awards.
I have a strong sense of the women in my family line and have often wondered what the lives of the early female settlers, my ancestors, must have been like in colonial New Zealand.
I am also a lover of fine bone china. It is beautiful in its own right and also a link to the female tradition- the gentle taking of tea; talking over the teacups; the keeper of the kitchen and the home. My china has all been given to me, passed on as treasures from my grandmother and my mother, and is a link to them.
The cups and saucers, teapots and dinner sets are hand painted and signed. They are all very English. The carefully painted flowers and pastoral scenes depicted do not reflect New Zealand at all. There are roses, foxgloves, stylized oak trees, thatched cottages and castles. Really, they are alien here. Quite out of place. Is that how my family’s first female settler felt? Is that why she held on to the teacups and images, and traditions of ‘home’, for generations?
Here they met kowhai and fern, Maori pas, wooden houses and hotels, and surely rural isolation and hardships.
Somehow, over the generations there has been an accommodation of the two and, for me, now, both feel quite naturally part of me and make me who I am. I am a pakeha New Zealander, of colonial stock and very much of this land now. It’s all of it. Together.
My ‘tattoo’ of the Spode china pattern represents this.
For me it is a personal and positive image. They sit beautifully together.
Naturalists and artists, Banks and Solander travelled with Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery on the Endeavour, reaching the New Zealand coast in 1769. They visually recorded what they saw and the flora and fauna they found, and collected plant specimens for scientific record. This grew in to an early herbarium, specimens of which can still be viewed.
I believe that our natural history collections are as much about social history and a context in time as they are about the flora or fauna preserved. And so, I am developing my own ‘herbarium’ of native NZ plants, taken from my late father’s garden, photographed to be ‘scientifically’ documented, and painted to be infused with china patterns from my female ancestors.