The Tao of Dragons : Fantasy Art in Carterton

Astrid Nielsch presents paintings inspired by Ursula Le Guin
Paintings inspired by Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books

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WHAT: Fantastic Journeys :: Paintings inspired by Ursula Le Guin

WHEN: 5 December 2012 - 13 January 2013

WHERE: Carterton Events Centre, Foyer – Holloway St, Carterton, Wairarapa

WHO: Featherston artist Astrid Nielsch has been trying to make sense of the world around her by painting pictures since she was two years old. Reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as a teenager inspired her not only to give shape to her imagination with paint, but to pick up the harp and embark on a career as a professional musician that has taken her across the globe, and ultimately to New Zealand. Compelled by the New Zealand landscape and light, she soon found her way back to her first artistic passion.

During the last eight years, she has produced a substantial amount of work, including oil paintings, digital art, pen and ink and pencil sketches.

Recently, she completed the London Art College Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Certificate with Distinction. She also holds a diploma in Multimedia Design from Natcoll Wellington. Her first solo exhibition at Thistle Hall in Wellington in 2010 was well visited, attracting art lovers, fantasy buffs and curious passers-by in equal proportion. Few people can resist a big yellow dragon!

Astrid presents a series of fourteen oil paintings inspired by the acclaimed American Fantasy and Science Fiction author Ursula Le Guin.

WHY: Come see Dragons! Wizards and magic! Underground labyrinths, enchanted islands, the Yin and Yang of Light and Darkness.

Astrid Nielsch presents her second solo exhibition at the Carterton Events Centre. After reading Ursula Le Guin’s "Earthsea" novels on a summer holiday on the South Island, she was overwhelmed by a rush of images inspired by the author’s strong imagery. In December 2008 she began to work on the series of paintings, which now comprises 14 works, translating the author’s strong imagery into visual language – somewhere between medieval illustrations of sacred stories, and a comic strip.

Set in a waterbound world of islands and wizards traveling in boats, the fictional world of “Earthsea“ is inspired not only by the European Middle Ages, but by the cultures of the American Pacific Coast, and the Pacific Islands. Incidentally, in some languages “Earthsea” translates to the same word as “Zealand”!

Ursula Le Guin is one author who has taken the fantasy genre and turned its stereotypes on their head. Rather than the usual struggle of Good versus Evil, her work stresses the importance of keeping a balance between light and dark, and acknowledging the shadow side of one’s self. Profoundly influenced by the Chinese philosophy of Daoism and the I Ging, her stories may be all about wizards and magic and dragons, but they contain a deep psychological and spiritual truth.

Astrid Nielsch has been trying to make sense of the world around her by painting pictures since she was two years old. Reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as a teenager inspired her to create her own body of fantasy illustrations, first in watercolours, later in oils. Stories, myths and songs have always been her main source of inspiration. The imaginary universe of Middle-earth also inspired her to pick up the harp, and embark on a career as a professional musician that has taken her across the globe, and ultimately to New Zealand. As Asni the Harper she has produced two solo CDs. Her latest album Travels in Middle-earth was released in 2008, to international acclaim.

The intense visual experience of the New Zealand landscape and light compelled her to take her painting more seriously again. Since 2004 she has attended art classes and participated in online art communities, where she found the peer support that enabled her to develop her skills more systematically.

Recently, she completed a Certificate in Fantasy and Science Fiction Art at London Art College, which she passed with Distinction. Astrid works both with traditional media – primarily oils – and as a digital artist. In 2008, she completed the Diploma of Multimedia at Natcoll Design College, and decided to give up her live performing career in order to concentrate on her painting, and her newly acquired skills in professional web and multimedia design.

In 2009, she was awarded an Enterprise Allowance Grant to set up her own business, Asni: Multimedia Art & Design. She runs her own website www.asni.net, where she sells prints of her artwork, sheet music and CDs, and designs websites for other artists and musicians, independent professionals, and small businesses in New Zealand and abroad.

“Fantastic Journeys” is Astrid’s second solo exhibition. After reading Ursula Le Guin’s “Earthsea’ novels on a summer holiday on the South Island, she was overwhelmed by a rush of images inspired by the author’s strong imagery. In December 2008 she began to work on the series of paintings which will be on show in this exhibition.

Ursula K Le Guin, the Grande Dame of American fantasy and science fiction, was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her father, German anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, is known for his work on the indigenous cultures of California. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber, was a successful writer. Growing up in this academic and artistic environment, she discovered her love for writing early.

But it would take until the 1960’s to publish her first science fiction novel. Her work soon began to attract major awards: her fifth novel, “The Left Hand of Darkness”, published a year after the first “Earthsea” book, won both the Nebula and Hugo awards, and can be considered a 20th century classic.

The “Earthsea” novels break with a long tradition of eurocentric fantasy writing of the blonde and blue eyed hero kind, in that their hero and most of the other characters are a dark skinned people, their culture inspired by American First Nations as much as Europe, living in a water-bound world of scattered islands reminiscent of the Pacific.

The author lives in Portland, Oregon. Her latest book, “Lavinia”, appeared in 2008.

Earthsea synopsis:

The Wizard of Earthsea: the young wizard Ged, a strong but unschooled talent, is taken on as apprentice by the wise old Mage Ogion. Noting his impatience, Ogion sends Ged to the wizard school on Roke Island. By an act of competitive ambition, Ged releases a shadow into the world, whom he will eventually have to hunt down and face.

The Tombs of Atuan is set largely in an underground labyrinth consecrated to the Dark Powers of the Earth. Tenar, the young High Priestess of the Tombs, is torn between her sacred duty to kill the trespasser Ged, and her curiosity about the outside world, and about this man and stranger.

The Farthest Shore: an older and wiser Ged embarks on a quest to find and fix the hole were magic is leaking out of the world, leaving wizards without their spells and singers without their songs. He is accompanied by young Lebannen, who has to fulfill a prophecy so that a king will return to rule in peace in Earthsea.

Contact details: 
Email asni@asni.net or phone 06 308 61 91

Written by

Asni

6 Nov 2012

Interests Image and Sound. Colour and Structure. Music and Illustration. Thought and Emotion. Left Brain Right Brain. Fantasy and Science Fiction. And yeah, I also design and program websites for other artists and musicians.Personal Description