Wellington had a huge storm this week. I’m afraid there was a lot of damage. The sea came in and broke up the roads in front of it. It even entered the houses. It smashed the waterfronts around the southern bays. (It is still raining and freezing today, my sister writes, though the wind has dropped.) The highest wind gust, I read in the news, had been recorded at Hawkins Hill. It was 248 km/hour.
When I heard the words ‘Hawkins Hill’ I thought of my 1990 painting of the same name. The old radar station used to be up there when I was growing up. As it was a very high peak, you could see the radar station from many points, including from my parents’ bedroom window. When I think of Hawkins Hill I think of cold southerlies. On the other side of Hawkins Hill are more hills, undulating until they disappear into the Cook Strait. Beyond Cook Strait is the South Island. The South Island was magic because I never got to travel there until I was a teenager. You could see the snowy Kaikoura mountains of the South Island from Island Bay (one of the bays which got hammered this week) and you got fantastic views of it from ‘up the hills’.
I remembered, when I saw Hawkins Hill mentioned in the news, that I had been meaning to write a post one day on faulting and folding and how my art subject matter went from hills to kimono. I had learned the term ‘faulting and folding’ in geography class at highschool. The term describes hills (just as you see in my painting) which are formed and molded by earthquakes; thrust upwards and bent – like solid versions of waves in the ocean. I grew up in seismic Wellington, surrounded by these hills in all directions. You see similar shapes in Japan, California and … any place with earthquakes. They make lovely shapes though my father, who came from a very different landscape in Poland, found them claustrophobic – “like buttocks” he said. However, as they are what I grew up with, I feel affinity with them and I liked to paint them. I also enjoyed climbing them, playing childhood imaginary games amongst them, looking at the views from the top, making forts, making out (later on), damming their streams and riding over them on my horse. “Up the Hills” is part of our family terminology. “We’re going up the hills today.”
So how do I get to the subject of kimono? Kimono are simply faulting and folding in material AND in glorious technicolor. I almost die of pleasure working on the landscape of the kimono. Mmmm, rich colours melting into shadows or highlighted by sun; ridges and valleys, peaks and troughs of fine design-infused material…what could be lovelier?
[Note: the above drawing of Ichifuku-san is shown in stages in a work-in-progress page: see it here.]
New Zealand and Japan – not so different. Both have earthquakes, volcanoes, hot springs, long and thin island shapes, polite people – and faulting and folding. I live in Australia so I can assign both New Zealand and Japan to magical places. They are both landscapes across the water just as the South Island once was to a girl who lived at the bottom of the North Island…dream-time places to visit now and then (but not often enough to lose the magic).
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