Janette Cervin: Blended Families

As we somersault towards the end of 2014, I thought I would write about Janette Cervin, an artist whose exquisite hydrangeas I had encountered in January of this year.  Now part of the December exhibitions at the Depot Artspace in Devonport, I think her works are a delightful way to bookend what has been a fascinating year of art.

In her exhibition Blended Families, Cervin presents a series of flower paintings that are splendorous with local flora and fauna – depicting New Zealand as an Antipodean paradise.  Her style is highly decorative with details such as korus, hydrangeas and birds being repeated within paintings and across works in this exhibition.  Cervin engages with the floral motif in the history of art, particularly the theme of vanitas, a type of still life featuring objects that symbolise mortality and transience, and was popular in the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th Centuries.  She furthermore points to how repetitive natural forms would historically appear in the domestic sphere of arts and crafts created by women.  Some of her works for example Birds on Blossoms, easily resembles textile or wallpaper design with its neutral coloured background and is reminiscent of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

I am enchanted by Cervin’s painting technique – she creates the illusion of depth in a remarkable way, in that it is less of an illusion.  Working on an aluminium surface, she paints in heady colour before applying glossy resin, and then repeats this layering process.  She builds up specific areas at different stages, and on some artworks such as Iris and Flax and Blue Hydrangeas, the paint sits atop the final thick application of resin.  All the flowers are at the height of their bloom, and you can see the details tenderly suspended amongst the gooey glazed layers, at varying depths from the surface.  In some ways it is almost like looking into a deep pool of water, like a pond, as the resin has a highly reflective polish.

Almost all of her verdant scenes are encapsulated by the tondo shape of the panel she paints upon, apart from the odd rectangular and oval artwork.  This rounded shape is reminiscent of many things: a magnifying glass, an embroidery hoop, and a William Hodges’ work titled A View of Dusky Bay, New Zealand (1773, oil on panel, 81 x 79.5 x 6.4 cm, Auckland Art Gallery).  One of the first paintings of New Zealand, Hodges presents an idealised, sublime scene of arriving in Dusky Bay with a towering Maori man set in the foreground.  Though his painting is greatly romanticised, Hodges does depict the beauty and power of nature.  I can’t help but think of how Cervin similarly comments on our stunning surroundings, and what could easily be lost and become extinct.

These paintings celebrate the vitality and beauty of our landscape, our clean green backyards, whilst also drawing attention to the fragility and transience of such beauty in our contemporary world.  Janette Cervin’s exhibition Blended Families is on at the Depot Artspace, Devonport until Thursday 18th December 2014.

For more info on the exhibition please click on the link below:

For info on Cervin, check out her website:

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Bring on 2015 😀



Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon

The Auckland Festival of Photography has begun!  21 days at 75 venues, I think one of the best ways to warm up in this wintery weather is to pop into galleries and check out some art 🙂

For more information, please check out their website:

One of the exhibitions that caught my interest was Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon in the Small Dog Gallery, at Depot Artspace in Devonport.

For Tan’s first solo exhibition, she presents photographs from when she and her family lived in Cuba for two months.  She used this immersive experience to capture the lives of everyday people in one of the remaining Socialist states in the world.  Tan rubs at our perceptions of Cuba – a veneer filtered through cigars, rum, jazz, vintage cars, and baseball.  Her photographs are a definite contrast to the images that are usually disseminated, such as those by Beyoncé and Jay Z during their sojourn last year (wasn’t her hair on that trip all kinds of fantastic?).

These large vibrant vignettes include photographs of deteriorating buildings, stray dogs, washing drying on a line, to name a few.  There is a true sense of grittiness; the dereliction is palpable in Tan’s images, you could almost touch it.  Yet there is also so much vitality in spite of everything.  This is especially seen in the images on the slideshow, for instance, the wide smile on the face of a local school boy, and the loving affection expressed by a family that gave Tan’s daughter a pair of shoes.  It is interesting that Tan was told off for taking photos inside a scarce looking ration shop, but she was able to capture the neglect and erosion of the buildings and streets outside.  There is that ubiquitous sense of surveillance and an almost need to continue propagating Cuba’s façade.

If I had to choose a favourite work, it would be Abandon (2013).  The striking green classic car looks like a sumptuous Granny Smith apple, still blushing with colour, yet on the verge of decay.  Set against a corrosive looking wall, there is interplay between the various textures.  The state of this abandoned car could be a metaphor for the state of Cuba – abated yet still hopeful.  As of last year, Cuba has relaxed their exit visa restrictions for their citizens, however there are still questions concerning human rights and the economy.  Overall, I was truly struck by Tan’s photographs: insightful and off the beaten path, they offer up snapshots of the everyday lives of Cubans, the pretty and the gritty.

If you are looking for the article in the window of the exhibition, it can be found below:

For more information, please go to the Depot Artspace website:

Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon runs until Thursday 12th June at Depot Artspace in Devonport.  Whilst you are there, make sure to cast your eye over the other photography exhibitions: Flora Photographica Aotearoa, Brendan Kitto: Night Vision and Jonny Davis: Up the Coast.