I’ve been talking with my friend Penny tonight and, as often happens, the art chat circled back to the roots of our addictive natures, which for both of us led to morbid obesity. We also talked about symbolism in our art.
Penny asked why the Patea freezing works and cool stores appear and reappear in my art, even when I’m seemingly concentrating on the Hokitika Gorge colours. It’s an interesting question.
When I was sitting on Alan’s lounge floor in Hokitika contemplating the series of abstract mixed media pieces I was working on I suddenly realised I’d been loosely drawing the shape of the cool stores.
I’m Patea born and bred and, at 56, have only lived away from here for a few years. I left at 18 and came back at 27. This is home. Growing up, the Freezing Works were central to our lives – Dad’s grocery business depended on them in some ways, friend’s parents worked there, friends expected to work there as generations before them had.
The freezing works dominated the landscape as we drove into town from the south – a symbol of home in the same way the maunga is. The freezing works is long gone, demolished after a fire. The cool stores remain, long-abandoned and heavily graffitied.
My addictive nature has its roots in pain essentially, according to Dr Gabor Máte in his book “In the realm of hungry ghosts; close encounters with addiction” and more recently the movie “The wisdom of trauma”. I’ve talked about some, but not all, of that pain before so let’s put that aside.
For me the freezing works and cool stores symbolise home – not just my town or the family home – but Mum, Dad and my sister. They stand for love and safety or, to put it into an addiction/pain context, those buildings represent anti-pain. No wonder my mind pulls fragments of them out all the time…