Art Auction – Italy poppies

I’m not generally a big fan of the “please donate art to our auction” fundraiser. No one asks the accountant, lawyer, or plumber to donate the equivalent. Artists are targeted because they have a physical product and “you can just make another one – right?”. Anyway, that aside…

St John in Hawera are doing an art auction to raise funds towards a new station. Tony was an ambulance officer for about 16 years, and Mum was a very regular ambulance user, so it’s a charity close to my heart. Heck, I’ve used them a couple of times myself 😉

My artist’s statement for the exhibition:

In 2010 Tony and I travelled to Italy as I was one of 40 New Zealand artists who had works in the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy. I took 4 works over, celebrating 4 men including my father, Patea grocer Mansel Barker, otherwise known as Able Seaman Barker.

The trip had a profound impact on me, and on my art. I have continued to paint the Italian landscape, and works which depict in some way the lives that were touched by WWII. Two of the works which went to Italy have been exhibited here in NZ as well, and newer Italian works have been exhibited in Wellington. In 2016, by invitation of the curator, I exhibited works in Italy for the Legato exhibition which coincided with 70th commemorations.

This series of essentially black and white works is inspired by the poppies, which grow amongst the rubble throughout Italy, bringing colour to the landscape.

Poppies at the railway station Italy 2012Poppies at Sorrento 2012

Making those incredible links

In 2010 Tony and I took four works I’d created to the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy. They honoured four men who had swerved in WWII; my dad, my best friend’s dad and uncle, and the father of a woman who had worked for dad.

I am sending work next year, when the commemorations will be all the more special as the world marks 100 years since WWI. I’m already doing a large landscape based on my recollections of the walk to one of the memorial services we went to, but have been hankering to do something honouring a solider as well. But didn’t know who, or why. I should have known to listen and wait, because the answer always comes.

My good friend Joanne D had asked me a while back about doing a piece to honor her grandfather but we didn’t pursue it. She and I have been emailing and I’m going to do a piece that she can show her Granny then it can travel to Italy, then return to her family. Fantastic!

Before I knew that was happening, I decided to search the internet for local people who had served that could have relatives I could trace and talk to. My mother was adopted, and didn’t find out until she was in her 60s – but we were able to find out both her mother and father’s full names and are in contact with some family members. I was scrolling through names and there was someone I thought had to be her uncle. I range her half-sister and she confirmed this but went on to say that her father had served in WWI as well. Would I like her to send me some copies of war records etc so I could do a work about him.

I had to end the conversation and think about what I had just heard – that I was being given the opportunity to honour the grandfather I never knew by creating a work about him and sending it to Italy to be honoured by hundreds of people. I felt utterly overwhelmed. I wrote back today to say “yes, please do send me some copies” as I’d love to do this.

When we connect with people, and tell others what we need, it’s incredible what happens. Here’s a photo of Mum, and the piece I did of Dad – I knew they’d both be excited to hear this.





bright spark

Preparing to paint

I’m sending work to the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy, in 2014. I’ve been playing with ideas for a while, but nothing has worked as I wanted it to. The problem has been my head-space rather than my actual art practice. Last night I think I finally got into the right place mentally to get on with it. Fingers crossed.

Legato is now an established part of the annual WW2 Battles of Cassino commemorations held in Cassino, Italy in May each year. The 70th commemorations will be a special time with surviving veterans, international dignitaries and families of veterans participating as well as the local Italian people who are committed to remembering and honouring the people who were there during WW2.

I have some full size sheets of watercolour, a bucket of water, a couple of photos, my memories of Italy, some stencils, inks, fluid acrylics, brushes and a new roll of handytowels. Oh, and my camera. Here’s a few visuals of what’s involved.

Not too bad I guess!

This is the photo that is going in the local newspaper to advertise my fundraising venture for getting to Italy in May. The pear painting on the wall behind me is off to an exhibition in a week or two; the piece in my hand is a trial run for the Italy works.

I am selling art shares in the trip, you’ll find all the details a couple of posts back. If you are interested in an original piece of art work and more, for just $35, have a read and then email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Interviewed for local newspaper

I have just spent some time with a local reporter. He’s doing a story for the back page of next week’s paper about my forthcoming exhibition in Italy. Laird’s also going to talk about how I am selling art shares in the trip. For more details on how you can be part of the whole exciting project, see this previous post. That post also contains a PayPal button so that if you decide to join in, you just need to click the button. Now I just have to hope the photos he took of me turn out alright!

Amazing news – invited to exhibit in Italy

I have been invited to exhibit at Cassino, Italy in May of this year. The exhibition is for New Zealand artists with a connection to the Battle of Cassino and World War 2 to create artwork inspired by the theme Peace and Remembrance. The exhibition is titled LEGATO. Artist Kay De Lautour is organising the exhibition in conjunction with Cassino Commune (City Council). Kay had the final say on the selection of artists based on their artwork and portfolio, and has invited me to attend on this basis.

This is an amazing chance to showcase my work to an international audience. More importantly, it is an opportunity for me to honour my father, Mansel Barker, who served in the Navy (and would never talk about it), my best friend’s father, Jack Robinson, who fought at El Alamein and was a POW and her Uncle Roy who is buried at Rimminy in Italy.

Whatever happens, my paintings will be in Italy from mid May. I would love to attend the exhibition, visit historical sites and talk with veterans who are there for the annual commemorations.

This is where I need your help. I have to fund-raise the cost of the trip so I’m selling ‘shares’ in my trip. For only $35 I am offering:

  • A share certificate
  • A hand made commemorative postcard mailed back from Cassino
  • A full colour newsletter after the trip, talking about the exhibition and my experience of going to Cassino.
  • And by, Dec 2010, an original 15x15cm painting inspired by Cassino, “my three men” and the exhibition.

So, I have a question for you: would you consider buying a share in my trip and helping to make this incredible dream a reality? If you are interested please email me at or click on the PayPal button to donate straight away. If you do use PayPal, please include your name and address so I can start sending you your goodies.