A new body of work emerges...

As soon as I left New York, my mind started fizzing with ideas. I’m not sure if it was that my mind finally had space, as there are so many wonderful distractions in that city, you bounce from one source of entertainment to another! But I think it was more that I have developed a way to ‘keep a lid on it’ to a certain degree. When I am not able to be in my studio (because we are off chasing aurora or bumbling around in our vintage car – an odd combinations of things that I love!) I manage to contain my ideas. I keep a small note book with me incase something pops up, but I try not to let them get a hold of me….but once I am headed towards home, and they start pounding on my frontal lobe and bashing their way in! I barely said hi to a few friends and family before I locked myself away in my studio.

It can be intimidating starting a new body of work. My initial idea was to do some sort of Re-imagining of Captain Cook's landings, as over the years many ideas for this kind of story have been in my head. But soon into my investigations I realise Lisa Reihana has so thoroughly done this! So I buy some fresh journals, sharpen my pencils and I write and write.

My piles of books I collected to start my research and my ideas board steadily growing...

The words 'I am home' pop out at me from my pages of scribbles....'I am home, but not from here...' When asked if I am from New Zealand, I always finish with “but my parents are from Germany and England and my brother Canadian” In reality I am more often asked if I am Dutch or German anyway, so maybe it is because I don’t look like ‘a kiwi’ that I question it. As I child I grew up in the remote Cardrona Valley with all the gold mining history and surrounded by farmers. We were the random European family building a restaurant in the barren high country farmlands! I was the one at teenage parties in bright red pants when everyone else was in jeans and moleskins.

Sonia Richter and Eiko Jones as kids with their mum at Cardrona Hotel craft shop late 1970s

My brother Eiko and I, learning to spin with our mum. She ran a craft shop in the old billiard room of the Cardrona Hotel while my dad was working on the restoration of the old hotel, we moved there in 1975.

Now in my 44th year I definitely know I am a Kiwi. There is something different about us. When I visit my brother in Canada, I often wonder how I would have turned out if we had all stayed in Canada. Or if either of my parents had been drawn back to their homelands… In England I would have my artist grandmother and great-aunt around to teach me art and I would have had the Tate to visit…ohhhhhh….imagine! When I see kids on these huge galleries I want to tell them how lucky they are…I was in my 30s before I saw a Monet, Johns or Turner for real!!!

But in saying that, I am really happy that I started painting later as I have more life experience to bring into my artworks.

Anyway, back to my art….so, what I want to explore is – what it is about New Zealand, about growing up here and choosing to live here, that makes us ‘Of New Zealand’ I am looking into historical events, ones I recall and meant a huge amount to me at the time, but also others that have shaped New Zealand and the way that we think. The influence of Maori and our Pacific Island neighbours on our way of thinking and being. The early colonial settlers, the hardy gold miners…The farmers, the pioneers, the activists… Living on such a tiny island so far away from the rest of the world... …so many events shape who we are without many of us giving it much thought.

I won’t give away too many of stories, but the options are vast…and the ideas are brewing! I have already started on an artwork about Kate Shephard - I am collecting signatures from women all around New Zealand, to represent the nearly 32,000 signature she collected... My mum was the first one to sign! Now I just need 31,999.... I'll get the ribbon around town and let you know where to find them, be sure to get your name on this artwork honoring women!

Above: tea staining vintage petticoats... If any of you have great pioneering stories, please get in touch with me as the personal stories are the best, and since I am the only kiwi in my family, clearly no one from my family were on the first boats! I'd love to sit down and have a coffee with you and hear it. Also, if you have any bits and pieces of old rusted goodness around the farm, I am trying to collect all sorts of things! Rusted chain, gold miners equipment, rusted farm tools...or old petticoats.

I look forward to hear from you all. Peace love and paint splattered clothing,


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