As an artist, I’m driven to explore and communicate ideas.
Living in New Zealand, but not being a Māori New Zealander, has led me on a journey to discover what is my cultural heritage. I have a huge regard and respect for Māori art and culture and am trying to navigate a commentary on this though my own art.
My 'Making Their Mark' series developed out of a strong curiosity about what my cultural identity is as a New Zealander looking back on early New Zealand; driven by my fascination with the extraordinary artistic creativity of the Māori and how that reveals in our people. Māori early history was passed down by word of mouth and by decoration of what they made (whether it be a whare, a huia box or a gourd). Both Māori and Pakeha history and interaction has shaped us.
The challenge was how to interpret and reflect this in my own art.
I see a flow in the patterning, with shapes and textures that are derived from nature and spiritual forces. I see proud people with stories in their eyes - I see objects that have meaning to us – influences and images that remind us of our heritage. With this in mind, I have made my own marks and textures that project out of my works.
As to materials, from early on in my artistic journey, I have used gold leaf and developed a modern application of it on oak board. The grain of the oak, the sheen of the leaf and staining with acrylic paint in layers all give an effect that changes with light and viewing angles.
I’ve shaped these elements to produce a range of works that I’m proud of and that are seen and enjoyed around the world – an amalgam and celebration of early and modern New Zealand, and a blend of Māori and Pakeha.
Jenny Mehrtens is an Arrowtown based artist, primarily a painter, she has had several group and solo exhibitions and her work can be found in private collections worldwide.
Jenny was born and raised in Dunedin and her natural creative talent and love of visual arts was nurtured by her family (some of whom were artists) and the Dunedin community. She had a successful clothing design business based in Dunedin in the 1980s under the labels “Jenny Haggitt Originals” and “Verve”.
Jenny studied painting at Inverlochy Art School in Wellington and now lives near Arrowtown where she has a private studio on the outskirts of this small historic town, and paints full time.