Following the Blue Ribbon and Locus

Turquoise Gauze Belt (Yulong River) Gerda Leenards
Carnivore Warren Viscoe
Media Release: Two New Concurrent Exhibitions:Dates: 22nd October – 9th December 2012



Media Release:

Two New Concurrent Exhibitions:

Dates: 22nd October – 9th December 2012


Following the Blue Ribbon







These exhibitions bring to Whangarei two prominent contemporary artists whose lives work were forever influenced by their time spent in the Whangarei region.

Whangarei Art Museum director Scott Pothan says that one of the aims of the museum is to support ...key cultural figures with direct childhood and ongoing creative links to Whangarei: "Our role is to profile and give acknowledgement to artists who have had to move out of the area to get recognition. It’s about bringing people home and giving them a place to stand".




Warren Viscoe is a key cultural figure in New Zealand with direct childhood and on going creative links to Whangarei.

Born in Auckland in 1935, Warren grew up on the outskirts of Whangarei, surrounded by the bush. "The persistence of nature as a subject matter has always been a strong feature of my art," says Warren. It was the "notions of the early days and what I experienced" that have continually surfaced in his extensive Oeuvre.

Viscoe enrolled in a building apprenticeship in 1952 and worked on many of the building sites in and around Whangarei, eventually travelling as a journeyman carpenter to Africa, England and Canada. His experiences as a builder had some influence on his art, especially works that grew out of assemblage. "If you look at timber frame houses, that’s all they are – assemblages of sticks. How they join and the simple mechanics of bracing and counterbalancing and tensions; it’s all in there and came out in my work".

His interests evolved from building to fine art which he pursued by travelling overseas to England where he enrolled at Chelsea Polytechnic, London in 1958 to study painting. He then moved on to Canada where he studied part-time at Ontario College of Art in 1961–62, and then back to New Zealand and full-time study at ELAM, University of Auckland in 1963– 65, where he gained a degree in Fine Arts.

In Locus: The Sculptures of Warren Viscoe, 2004 to 2011, Warren brings to Whangarei works from three sculptural series: The Pages from the Book of Song Birds Series, 2004; The Coats Series, 2011 and The Houses Series, 2011. All of the works in the exhibition showcase Warren’s exquisite wood carving skills and his sense of construction, as in I Built a House for Wetas, and often an unusual sense of humour as in Carnivore, a work from the Coats of Bark Series, 2011, which has a dog in one pocket and a bone in another. His keen sense of environment is strongly evident in the Book of Song Birds Series, 2004, of which

Heteralocha Acutirostris - the Huias is one, and although witty and lyrical it’s dark connotations suggest all is not as it should be.

Warren Viscos’s work is deeply researched and references the past in contemporary and innovative ways and he is nationally recognised for the stature of his creative practice. He is based in Auckland where he has a studio at his home in Ellerslie. His work is included in major collections, private and public, including Auckland Art Gallery/ Toi O Tamaki, James Wallace Arts Trust, Rotorua Museum of Art and History/ Te Whare Taonga O Arawa, Sarjeant Gallery/ Te Whare Rehua, Wanganui, and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.


Warren Viscoes links with the art museum and Whangarei are extensive and he is represented in the Whangarei Art Museum Collection by a public sculpture of a giant-sized Puriri moth "

 The Ghost Moth

" hung on the front exterior wall of the Hub-Te Manawa, commissioned by the art museum in 2007.

"All my childhood was spent in Whangarei, and I still go back there. I find great solace in those areas around the town" and so it is the Whangarei Art Museum’s distinct pleasure to once again bring Warren Viscoe, along with Gerda Leenards, home.





Following the Blue Ribbon

Journeys on the River Li.


Gerda Leenards, was born 1946 Nijmegen, Holland and immigrated to New Zealand when 10yrs old in 1956. From 1965 to 1968 she lived in Whangarei working as a draughtswoman for the Dept. of Lands and Survey and as a graphic design assistant. She completed a Diploma of Fine Arts at the Ilam, University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, in 1970 and first exhibited in 1981 in Wellington. In 1985 she won the Whitcoulls Award for Drawing and three years later exhibited for the first time in Auckland, the same year having a solo exhibition at the Wellington City Art Gallery, entitled ‘From Pillar to Coast’.

In 1989, Leenards again conveyed the voice of the land in her depictions of the Maori and European defence works around Spirits Bay in Northland. During this period she was using a somber and restricted palette of oil stick or acrylic on canvas, and a brushy expressionist style.

Leenards returned to the Netherlands in 1992, to take up a 6-month residency at Studio Elba in Nijmegen, and to immerse herself in the artistic traditions of her homeland. She is very influenced by the early Dutch Landscape artists as their works were more poetic than narrative based. On returning to New Zealand her paintings claimed a serious and romantic beauty with an unmistakable sense of European painting tradition.

By the late 1990s, her atmospheric depictions of mist-enveloped headlands and soft, ghostly, cloud-wrapped landscapes had earned Leenards a reputation for depicting the New Zealand landscape in a new light – of a raw, unpredictable and uncompromising natural landscape.

Leenards travelled with Dept of Conservation into Doubtful and Dusky Sound in 2004, and into Fiordland as a resident artist in the Portage in Marlborough Sounds. A number of the resulting works were shown in the Whangarei Art Museum exhibition.

In 2007 and 2008, Gerda travelled on an Asia NZ grant into Southern China resulting in a series of works on canvas and antique screens, informed by her sketches and "sketchy" photographs of the Karst mountain ranges that line the banks of the Li River and reflected on it’s surface. Creating in her work an atmosphere which is deeply still and contemplative; Leenards responded more bodily to her experience "I was actually floating on the water" and her works evoke the sense of gliding along a river, and in particular her experience of sailing along the River Li, often referred to in poetry as


‘the blue ribbon’ and it is this very personal experience that the artist has aimed to replicate in

Following the Blue Ribbon: Journeys on the River Li.

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Written by

Whangarei Art Museum

25 Oct 2012

The Whangarei Art Museum Te Manawa Toi is the public art gallery of the Whangarei District and custodians of its art collection and public art works in the city.