Carbon Imprints 2017

 In 2014 I started work on Intertidal, an exploration of environmental changes over the last 800 years on the Mangawhai Spit. This new work, CARBON IMPRINTS, is an attempt to deepen my understanding of the mysterious imprints of carbon and silica sometimes glimpsed on the ever-shifting sands of the spit.  













My work is concerned with notions of identity, place and vulnerability. I often include animal-human hybridity in my images. The figures often look friendly and approachable at first but the paintings are unsettling, ambiguous and shot through with darker possibilities. The safe figures aren’t as safe as they seem. What they embody is enigmatic. What you see may be at odds with what you think you have seen. 

















Although no longer a resident of the North, recollections of the place and time lived there continue to resound within my life and work. These landscapes are views altered through numerous lenses – memory, chance and history among them. The images are shaky documents of nostalgia. A shuffle of scenes from the journey, and inevitably, a destination awaiting the return of a Northerner, or three.











The first and only novel I ever wrote, Diesel Mystic, is a surrealistically inclined memoir about a year I spent living in Dargaville during the late 1970s. Aged 17, I moved north from Auckland and gained for myself, I believe, an artistic education. I sat out at Bayly’s Beach reading Dylan Thomas; I made drawings of the hills around Tangowahine, and hitch-hiked endlessly up and down the road between the Northern Wairoa and Auckland. I spent a lot of time on the highway just outside Warkworth. These were lacklustre but also defining experiences.

Since then I’ve taken every opportunity to revisit the North—in my poetry and painting, as in my life. As a curator at City Gallery Wellington, I curated major exhibitions by Ralph Hotere and Laurence Aberhart, which provided good excuses to head north. With Noel McKenna, I’ve driven the Dargaville--Waipoua Forest route twice in recent years. Northland remains a gnarly, difficult, at times unlovely fascination for me. In the work of younger artists like Florian Habicht, I see the place being reborn into a new, unprecedented brilliance.










































‘The Northener’ exhibition has been an invitation to explore an as yet unfamiliar area. Coming upon the Matakana Quarry offered a palette of new materials and colours, which continues my ongoing fascination with site-specific pigments, clays and sands.