Here in New Zealand Christmas means high summer, and Christmas Dinner is often held on the beach, on a deck, or outdoors in front of a holiday home overlooking the sea.
We are fortunate in NZ because our beaches don’t get crowded, as in many countries overseas. Though beaches are not my ‘dream location’, I really do enjoy a beach that is deserted – a back to the wilderness type of thing. And I’ve got one or two fond memories of riding horses on beaches of this kind.
I created this painting after I moved away from Wellington, and I think the inspiration was the south Wellington coastline – Terawhiti with Makara behind – which also can be seen from the Inter-Island Ferry. As many will know, the Inter-Island Ferry crossing on a good day is a real treat, as the south Wellington coastline gives way to the fascinating convolutions of the Marlborough Sounds coast with its multitude of bays and inlets.
In this picture the atmosphere of the weather IS indeed benign, and if it were not for the lack of Pohutukawa trees lining the cliffs and flocks of sailing boats in the bay, it could well be the Bay of Islands, close to where I live now in what we euphemistically call ‘the winterless north’.
I think what makes this painting work so well is not only the composition, but also the colors. In a sense, this is a limited palette – but it doesn’t feel like that, and probably the muted, olive green shades have turned out to be the perfect foil for the rich blues and orange.
Acrylic on paper. For more details about the work, click on the images.
Believe it or not, there is a connection between this post and the last one about Mount Ngauruhoe and Tama Lakes. Let me explain.
Even today, Manet’s “Déjeuner sur L’Herbe” it is not what one would call a ‘comfortable’ painting, and maybe it was this element of unease that moved me a few years ago to create a modern version, setting the characters in a landscape of the future, when our pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and climate change have finally completed their deadly work.
The intervening years haven’t altered my perspective on this small painting, and I hope it conveys to others what it spoke to me as I created it.
Manet’s “Déjeuner” caused a sensation when it was exhibited. The painting was rejected by the Salon in 1863 so in the same year, Manet took the opportunity to exhibit it in the Salon des Refusés. Even in that venue, it caused an uproar, mainly from the fact of two women – one scantily-clad and the other naked – dining out in the woods with two fully-clad males. As I said above, the painting is still a little unnerving, even 150 years later, when we are much more ‘enlightened’.
The subject of this post is only a small sketch – about 7″x5.5″ – done at a time when I lived in Wellington and our Central North Island Plateau was very much a reality to me. So I placed the scene in that location, What made the fit for me was the desert quality, and the power pylons and lines.
Our State Highway No 1, which runs the full length of both islands, passes along the eastern edge of the Central Volcanic region. This is the Rangipo Desert. Between the road and the mountains runs the main power trunk line – carried on pylons which can be a pain when taking photographs. On this stretch, the road has a special name – ‘The Desert Road’. It’s very hot in summer and in winter it can often be closed altogether due to hazardous snow and ice conditions.
Bear in mind that when this painting was done, there was much less appreciation of the environmental impacts of many things that were used thoughtlessly. We are a little more aware today – though maybe too little too late.
So there we are at ‘déjeuner’: taking our leisure. Three of the little group of characters are still there – still lingering over luncheon and apparently oblivious to the gradual change that has taken place around them. Still socializing, in spite of the circumstances.
There is no grass underfoot. There are no shady trees left in the park, only the march of power pylons. There’s no longer any need for shady trees, because the sun’s rays are taken care of by the clouds of pollution overhead.
Party on …
I’ve mentioned Mt Ngauruhoe a couple of times in the past. It’s been one of my favorite mountains for some years – an elegant cinder cone on our Central North Island Plateau.
Mt Ngauruhoe is exciting not only for its beautiful shape and its snowy mantle in winter, but also for the fact that it’s still an active volcano and one used to be able to rely on there being a plume of steam coming out of its crater pretty much all of the time.
Not the case with Ruapehu (which erupted properly in 1995-6), and not the case with Tongariro, which proved itself to be still active in 2012, to everyone’s surprise – though it has hot springs and fumaroles on its flank. Ngauruhoe, technically a vent of Mt Tongariro, kept everyone reminded that it was active. It last erupted in 1973-75, and I see DOC advises people not to go down inside the outer crater to the smaller main vent, because there’s a danger of being overcome by fumes. I would think so.
Ngauruhoe’s more recent claim to worldwide fame was its featuring in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movie series, with some digital manipulation, as Mount Doom.
A few weeks ago I sold one of my Ngauruhoe artworks on an iPhone case. It’s one that has never sold before (the original was not for sale), so I was really pleased. It’s a watercolor-style acrylic of the mountain, and like Peter Jackson, in the process of creation I think I manipulated it a bit – making the sides steeper than the actual 45deg slope of Ngauruhoe. And maybe ‘the look’ is also because I slanted the profile of the crater rim…
Near Ngauruhoe are two small volcanic lakes – Tama Lakes – set in the tussock-covered, pockmarked saddle between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. I was fortunate on one of my trips to the eastern (Rangipo) side of the plateau to pass by and capture a very cool mirror effect that the sides of these lakes make with the slope of the mountain above – if you are in absolutely the right position to see it – and I was.
I took photos and the image has stayed with me for years. Some of these very brief visions never leave us – they root deep down in our consciousness and quite literally become part of who we are, I think. A bit like the Harrier Hawk episode. As I mentioned before, this whole Central North Island Plateau has a huge pull on me: it’s almost uncanny.
Acrylic on paper. For more information about the work, click on the images.