At first view, Colleen’s paintings and prints convey serene coastal landscapes. Wooden buildings sparsely sit in abundant native bush under vast skies, conjuring nostalgic scenes of an idyllic, simple New Zealand life. Hand crafted signs selling homegrown produce display nature’s bounty in our ‘land of milk and honey’.
However, literally scratching the surface of the works reveals a deeper context. Colleen’s use of wooden beehive Supers (boxes) and handsaws as the canvas for her works invites you to examine the impact of colonialism and industry on the West Coast environment. Honey bees play a critical role in many industries “It (the declination of bees) drives home the message about the need to be aware of how our activities affect the animals around us that we rely on . . . and also the wider environmental impact,”- Dr David Pattemore.
Colleen embraces the rural, no fuss aesthetic inherent in the signs she presents in her works. Rustic, rough textures and bold brush strokes accentuate the attitudes of a provincial, laid back culture. The signs act as clues to the people and landscape – what the landscape provides, what people are selling, what people are looking for, why they came here.
The scenes therefore come to represent a present day nostalgia, a fleeting moment in time. From the influence of pioneering ancestors and their involvement in surveying and exploration, to current farming & mining practices, Colleen’s works ask, what is the toll inherent in the land’s original promise of natural abundance and endless opportunity? What impact has industry had on our environment, and what does this mean to our sense of place now and in the future?