Arbornauts by Prue MacDougall April/May 2022

Posted by Fiona Cable on

Prue MacDougall has turned her watchful and whimsical gaze towards the innate power of trees. Utilising Greek Mythology, she is urges us to think about the essential roles that trees and forests play in our lives and psyches. Arbornauts explores a mythical and complex interaction.

MacDougall’s close connectivity to nature comes from a life-long love of gardening. Her green fingers are evident in her Remuera townhouse oasis. She acknowledges the beauty and visually arresting character of plants and trees, but also considers trees as both symbols and living organisms. Concerned about changing climates, the devastation wrought by global deforestation and shrinking biodiversity, MacDougall’s exhibition takes us on a walk through a forest guided by narrative threads.

The Greeks have believed for millennium that nature is positively alive with the spirits that reside there, and so does MacDougall.  The serenity that comes from sitting beneath a tree on a pleasant afternoon or your racing heart beat felt in a dark forest at night are not random emotions. The trees are truly alive with more than you may prefer to believe. According to legend, the ability to inspire strong emotions was the gift of the dryads. Everywhere they and their fellow nymphs existed, they were able to touch humans with this gift.

Fascinated by the myths of Nymphs and Dryads, Prue has incorporated female deities into the intaglio photopolymer prints dramatizing the intricate architecture of branch and root systems. Lympha, the water deity symbolising fertility, emerges from the oak tree while Caelestis postures skyward, invoking feelings of wonderment and awe. As spirits of the wilderness, these nymphs are protective of the forests and other beings, kind to those in need reminding us of our better nature.

Arbornaut examines how trees are essential to our sense of well-being and to our feelings of rootedness. A celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience. Legends and mythologies are full of trees that comprehend and articulate the meaning of existence. Hopefully, visitors will leave the exhibition with a renewed sense of appreciation for both the beauty and complexity of these indispensable organisms.

Prue MacDougall print maker artist Auckland New Zealand contemporary art Auckland art gallery

Friend and print maker Ina Arraoui comments on this Arbornaut series:

‘In MacDougall’s work nature is often superimposed and imbued with human traits and qualities having an ancient, mythical presence. Terra (2021) alludes to mother earth, depicting stark, leafless trees that rise from the profile of a female face submerged beneath the surface. This quiet contemplation of the passage of time as cyclical from season to season, oscillating between abundance to scarcity, is part of nature which our human experience is explicitly intertwined and not separate from.’ 

For every work sold from the Arbornauts collection, the artist will donate a tree on behalf of the buyer, via Trees that Count. Such a great way to help reinstate our trees and help the planet.

View a few pieces of work in the show click here.

ARBOR is Latin for tree and NAUT comes from Ancient Greek naútēs or sailor meaning voyager or traveller.

Opening Saturday 30th April, 10am - 3pm.

Exhibition Dates: 28 April - 17 May, 2022

Artist Talk and Demo Saturday 14th May, 11am.

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