As an artist, I’m driven to explore and communicate ideas.
My journey into the sort of art I have been producing in recent years began when I first saw Jono Rotmans large photos of Māori gang members. He is an amazing photographer, but I found the photos confronting and I felt a real need to tell another story. That of Māori beauty. That led me on an exploration of artefacts and archival photos and learning Te Reo. Like any learning in life, the more I learnt the more I fascinated I became. i have always felt that through learning there is a better understanding, and through my art I hope to communicate ideas to people.
I do not have any Māori whakapapa or pēpēha. I am a 5th generation New Zealander making observations (I hope respectfully).
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.