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  • Helen English Artist

An arty weekend away

After seven or eight months in the lovely town where I live, I finally made it out for the weekend. This would not usually be an unusual thing to do but, between major home improvements and the ubiquitous tremours of Covid, it has been a year when we have not ventured far.


This weekend, however, we travelled to Opunake. A town south of New Plymouth in New Zealand for those not living here. The reason was that I put a piece of my work up for exhibition in the Taranaki National Art Awards because it felt like a good opportunity to break out from my relative seclusion. The painting is called “Down time,” and was painted during the lockdown in March/April. I took the photos which make up the painting about four months before at a friend’s place. Their house is right on the northern edge of Lake Rotorua and it always feels peaceful in their garden. As I was there, I imagined painting the scene, and even bought a canvas with that in mind, but life kept galloping along until it came to a grinding halt in March.


Painting that scene was about creating a realism but it also contains my thoughts. The tree over the scene both frames the picture and pushes the outside world away. The one manmade object, the weather-battered and waterworn boat, is a symbol of longevity and comfort. It represents arrival and escape. The painting was escape and enjoyment of time away from the madness of the world. Now it has become the object which brought me back out into the world in my first journey away from Rotorua since March.


I knew that the exhibition would be amazing, and it really was. To see the diversity of art in such a place is really something which needs to be experienced rather than told. I had no idea that I would enjoy it quite so much. When I was there it became wholly about the experience and not my painting. My husband, who likes art but generally spends less time thinking about it, was absolutely enthralled by our evening there. We bought two quite different pieces of art, a wood print and a fibre sculpture, which we were both drawn to.


After a great conversation with one of the two exhibition judges, we travelled to New Plymouth the next day to see the art gallery which he curates, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. He also pointed us towards a great coffee place and in there we found a booklet on the arts trail happening for a week and visited the studio of the fibre artist whose work we now own. She then told us about a place where the ocean view is incredible so off we went. It was a weekend of following our noses and loving every second of the unexpected. Definitely one for the memory banks!



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