NIC MOON – Me : And : With – 7 Nov-1 Dec, 2017
This body of work began as an exploration of the Māori word ‘Me’, which can be translated as ‘and’ or ‘with’. In Te Ao Māori (the Māori world), as in Eastern Philosophy, there is an intrinsic acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of humans and the environment. Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au. (I am the river, and the river is me) ‘Me’ in English refers to me, myself, I – a person alone, singular. I have spent the winter months in the studio alone, communing with one indigenous taonga (treasure) at a time. It has been an experience of quiet contemplation, inspired by the paintings of the seventeenth century Dutch artist, Jan Vermeer van Delft.
The few works that have been attributed to Vermeer are full of sunlight and have an immersive, reflective quality influenced by Eastern Philosophy. His domestic, interior scenes of solitary women are an exploration of stillness, silence, light and colour. As an art student in the 1990’s, Michael Shepherd introduced me to the work of Vermeer. He opened my eyes to the unique qualities of materials, and the beauty and rhythms inherent in working with them. This winter I have gone back to my artistic roots. I became immersed in the tempering of oil paint, mixing pure linseed oil and pigment with a palette knife on a large glass palette. I layered the colour slowly, without solvents or chemical driers, and put the paintings away in drying racks to allow each layer to dry. This painting technique feels like a weaving, allowing the form of an object to emerge slowly.
Each of these works has allowed me to become immersed in the beauty and strength of our indigenous taonga tuku iho (natural treasures or heirlooms that have been handed down). Each of these taonga has its own story to tell in our domestic/local environmental and human history, and in our globally interwoven cycles and ecosystems.
Reflection: Many of our natural taonga are the focus of national conservation projects. Communities across the country are involved in planting and pest-eradication projects, in what seems to be a national uprising to restore ecological balance. Native tree seeds are being collected and stored in The Indigenous Flora Bank at Massey University. This is a collaboration, between a number of conservation and science institutions and the international Millennium Seed Bank in London. The aim is to ensure that our endemic flora has the greatest chance possible to survive the threats of climate change, habitat loss, introduced pests, and diseases like Myrtle Rust and Kauri Dieback. Many of our indigenous birds play a crucial role in distributing the seed that enables forest regeneration.
The Physician – Manuka The nursery crop for our forest regeneration, a renowned healer and, increasingly, a vital part of our economy (in the form of Manuka Honey).
The Love Letter – Kauri Our much loved lowland forest giant that is currently threatened by Kauri Dieback disease. This tree was a source of wealth for early European settlers – providing timber for ship masts and building construction – underpinning one of the foundations of our economy.
The Concert – Kowhai Seeds of the Kowhai were collected during Captain Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand on The Endeavour in 1769. This was among the first New Zealand plants to be propagated in London and offered for sale as a botanical specimen.
The Seed Sower – Kereru The Kereru (Wood Pigeon) is the sole remaining distributor of large seeds from our lowland/coastal forests. It plays a crucial role in regeneration of these globally significant ecosystems.
The Geographer – Kea The sole distributor of many of our alpine plant seeds. The cheeky Kea plays a significant role in ensuring that our mountains remain clad, protecting our alpine streams and forests from erosion.
The Astronomer – Kiwi Our unique flightless bird. Elusive dweller of our dark forest floor and the depths of night, meaning that very few of us ever see a kiwi in the wild.
Immersion: Butterflies and moths hold the essence of a place in the patterns and colours of their wings. This allows them to camouflage themselves within their indigenous ecosystem. Scientists are studying them as early indicators of environmental change.
Tussock Butterfly – evokes the golden, tussocked mountain-tops that hold the headwater streams of our river ecosystems.
Southern Blue Butterfly – evokes the vast, braided river ecosystems that meander through our grasslands.
Puriri Moth – evokes our lush, lowland forest ecosystems that thrive in the sediment-rich soils, where our rivers stretch to meet the sea.
The Milkmaid: The New Zealand Dairy Cow – a treasured import from the colonial era (the house cow). The cow has become an industrial ‘engine’ for much of our contemporary economy, while also becoming a threat to our environmental equilibrium.
Akeru (right) : A Japanese word meaning to begin and to end. To make space. To dawn.