Christchurch earthquake – no art this week

Last Tuesday a 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, following on from the September 4 and December 26th quakes of last year. Unlike the first two, where the only damage was to property, this time the quake has taken people’s lives. My heart goes out to those in Christchurch,their family and friends, my colleagues in librarianship and art, and everyone working to save lives and get services back up and running. Tony is waiting/hoping to be deployed as a relief worker somewhere down south. I hope he gets to go, he so wants to feel he is helping.

We have family in Christchurch. Our daughter Yasmine, her partner Adam and 4-year-old grandson Rory. Also Tony’s brother Roger and cousin Barry. They are all, physically anyway, unharmed. Mentally I am not so sure. Rory is fine – he has the resilience of youth and also the last two quakes and literally thousands of aftershocks have taught him there is nothing to worry about. Their properties are fairly unscathed this time except for some liquefaction, where the liquid earth underneath rises to the surface in a stinking puddle that sets like concrete.  Adam’s work has not fared well…

What does this have to do with art? Everything. My eyes have been fixed on the tv, my mind on Christchurch and my heart on family. I have been doing extra hours due to a special project at work and between that and the quake, I have nothing left over once I have taken care of the day-to-day of our lives. I have cut back drastically on the tv news I watch. I can’t change what has happened and, whilst I need to know in general terms how things are, me feeling sad and sick and tired achieves nothing. A little judicious editing is called for..

I hope to try for a little normality this week. Let me end with some family photos. Love and concern for these people are the reason my heart is sore and my mind elsewhere…

Opening night at the Wallace Gallery

On Friday night my best friend Sandra, her daughter Melissa (who is my god-daughter) and I attended the gala opening night of the Legato exhibition at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. They’d sold 178 tickets to the opening, and everyone was dressed up and looking splendid. Rotary did an amazing job of passing round yummy little eats and nice cold wine or juice, while live music played in the background. Well done  guys!

The opening began at 6.30 and at about 7.30 curator Kay de Lautour Scott took the stage to speak about how Legato came about, the momentum the project has gained, and a little about her life in Roccasecca. Kay showed a few photos of the exhibition in Cassino and played a video made by Nicola Blackmore showing the exhibition and talking to various people involved in the project including some of the artists. People were clearly very interested in what Kay had to say; there was none of the usual shuffling and muttering that goes on.

In the video Kay mentions my works and discusses the fact that, under the layers of paint and photos, I had written down all the things I’d been told about the men by their family members. Private things which I then partly painted over, respecting the fact these men had not shared their stories in life. I heard something beside me and realised Sandra was crying – hard. We hugged. For both of us this has been about honouring our dads, not just as men who went to war, but as men who went to war, survived, and came back to be amazing fathers who we love dearly and miss today.

It was a very different experience seeing my works being viewed here in New Zealand to seeing them viewed in Italy. I’m not sure I can explain the difference yet; my mind needs to work through it a bit more for the right words to come. What I do know is that, because the works are deeply personal, people take a keen interest in them. I had a number of people shake my hand and congratulate me. One lady, almost in tears, hugged me. Why? I think it’s about connection, and acknowledging the personal nature of the images.

It was a great experience to be there and see people’s reactions first hand. But for me, a thorough introvert, it was also incredibly tiring. All I wanted to do afterwards was sleep, to escape the people. I guess that is why I paint…

Mansel Barker; bright spark. (my dad) Cath Sheard, 2010.


Two exhibitions due to start

It’s been busy here lately, so much so that I didn’t even do my weekly post last weekend. And yes, I do feel bad about that -posting once a week isn’t a big ask so how could I miss it?

I have two exhibitions about to start. The first is works from Legato at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. You can read about it here. I have three works in this exhibition, all three were shown in Italy, along with a fourth which has been sold to the daughter of the man it commemorated. The new owner is very happy with it and I won’t be asking to borrow it to show – they’re all deeply personal works and it deserves to stay put with her.


Roy Lehndorf: taken too young. Cath Sheard, 2010.


The second exhibition is ‘Borderless‘ – 35 talented, NZ Art Guild members join together to illustrate that art is truly borderless. Through unique artworks and diverse medias that show that art is our one true global language. It has no boundaries, it crosses borders between nations and culture. It creates a dialogue between individuals, communication between communities and allows us to see and to listen to each other. Art lets us imagine what is possible, it heals, reveals and transforms. This runs from the 16th to 23rd February at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. I am sending two works, both mixed media pieces about the now-demolished Patea Freezing Works. Incidentally, someone asked me about the titles of these two pieces – did I mean “working IN or AT the Freezing Works”? No; the titles refer to nature working on the freezing works to reclaim the buildings by growing over them with weeds, rust weakening the structures, birds nesting in the gutters and so on – nature just doing her own work.


Working on the Freezing Works XI. Cath Sheard, 2010.