Gerda Leenards

31 July – 13 September 2020, Toi Gallery

New paintings based on Kapiti Island with inspiration from a Hamish Clayton novel.

Dutch-born, Wellington-based painter Gerda Leenards is known for her atmospheric landscapes. Her latest exhibition is a new body of work based on Kapiti Island that’s partly inspired by Hamish Clayton’s novel Wulf, exploring the history of the island and the Māori chief, Te Rauparaha.

Leenards lives in Paekakariki and says, “While living here, I have become more aware of the complex and sometimes bloody history of the island, with Te Rauparaha as a dominant force … most of the paintings were painted at nightfall when the weather patterns around Kapiti Island create unique and dramatic light effects. The light effects evoke strong emotive imagery, drawing us in much closer to the history of Kapiti island.”

Another focus in this body of work is based on a more distant view of Kapiti. The paintings provide the viewer with a wider overview of where we are now and our growing sense of vulnerability.

Born in Nijmegen, Holland, in 1946, Gerda Leenards’ family immigrated to New Zealand in 1956. After a career as a draughtswoman and a graphic design assistant, she completed a Diploma of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts in 1970.

Gerda was invited to exhibit in the 1990 exhibition Mana Tiriti: The Art of Protest and Partnership at the City Gallery Wellington. “The intention of my work is to show that control and ownership of land is an illusion perpetrated by our commodity-conscious culture.”

A 1992 trip to the Netherlands to take up a six-month residency at Studio Elba in Nijmegen presented an opportunity to explore the artistic traditions of her homeland. European landscape painting traditions continue to influence her thinking about, looking at, and re-presentation of the local landscape

Her love of the New Zealand landscape has seen Gerda travel into Fiordland nine times, often working in partnership with DOC. Her last trip in 2019, explored the historic first meeting between Ngāi Tahu and Captain Cook in Tamatea (Dusky Sound).