Jenny Keate

There or someplace else

9 April – 5 May 2024

These paintings express my interest in landscape stories, and how the New Zealand landscape has been shaped by human morals, values and beliefs. I’m interested in the ways the land has had its features and stories overwritten, and the extent to which the past makes its presence or absence felt.

This series has its origins in a two-week residency at Barry Brickell’s Driving Creek Railway in April last year. A kauri forest for millennia, it was logged then farmed. Now, thanks to Barry, it’s a regenerating forest and thriving artist community. The bush at Driving Creek has an other-worldly feeling. I felt Barry’s presence in the pottery and sculptures scattered through the forest and in the “eyes” on the young trees he planted.

The floodplains (formerly lowlands forests) of the Wairarapa and Horowhenua are the primary landscapes I’ve drawn on. I’ve also referenced my time at Driving Creek, and the farmland alongside the Kaimai ranges.

Geoff Park’s book, Ngā Uruora the Groves of Life, helped me visualise the lowlands plains as they were before European settlement. My awareness of the forest’s absence is now strong, and these paintings are as much about what’s not there as what is.

“There or someplace else” comes from the poem Atlantis by Wistawa Szymborska, where the poet reimagines the mythical city of Atlantis. The poem is riddled with ambiguity and contradiction.

I came across the poem while working on this series and it struck a chord with me: the sense of not-knowing is always strong as I work on painting about the landscape.

Books that have influenced these paintings include:

Wistawa Szymborska, Poems New and Collected 1957-1997, Ecco1998

Geoff Park, Ngā Uruora the Groves of Life: Ecology and History in a New Zealand Landscape (VUP 1995)

Brian Swimme, Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe (Catapult 2023)

Jenny Keate, April 2024