During winter and spring of 2015 I drew and painted in the earthquake affected Red Zone in Christchurch where houses had been removed because of ground instability. I ventured there with pens and paints in an attempt to capture the spirit of the place. Apart from an increasing number of official fences, I saw gardens flourishing and taking over the space left by houses and people. My use of watercolour has become a lot freer, brought about by working directly into a notebook some of the time and not worrying about getting things ‘right’. I like the result of the quick, direct unthinking response to what’s in front of me. In terms of materias, l I’ve been using smooth water colour paper and a Rotring pen to flow out my responses.
It’s harder to define what I’m doing with my subject matter in these Red Zone works, other than trying to capture its ‘essence’. I’ve found there is a strange emptiness and vastness in parts of Christchurch that is quite mysterious and very alluring. I get the feeling of going back to what the place was like before European settlement in terms of open space and seeing the sky but of course it’s too well planted with exotic trees and shrubs for that.
I really love being able to see the Port Hills so easily.
Finally, I admire the resilience and opportunism of local residents who are out in force in the Red Zone, running, walking, cycling, sight-seeing, picnicking and fishing. Suddenly they’ve had a beautiful big park emerge on their doorsteps and what I’ve gathered from chatting to some of them is that they are very happy with it. I don’t blame them – I feel the same – we’ve all been given a gift to do something with and in my case I wanted to make art from it.