'The Heart is an Octopus' - New paintings by Emma Hercus

Posted by Erin O'Malley on

The Heart is an Octopus

 The sea is an integral part of who we are as people. We breathe it in, and it gives us energy. Its sparkly depths entice us towards it, to dive into and explore. It provides us with food and everlasting beauty. In this exhibition Emma and Michaela have looked at the ways in which we relate to the sea and its creatures.  The paintings and poems were dreamed up on countless dog walks along the coast. Watching gannets diving for food, seagrass waving in the water, catching fish in the rock pools and popping seaweed underfoot. What would it be like to be part of the ocean, to live in the water and fall in love with an octopus?

Emma’s paintings have been inspired by Michaela’s poems and vice versa. Bouncing ideas off each other and sharing how the sea intrigues us as individuals.

Poem - Michaela Keeble

like an octopus

 the heart muscles its way out

makes it way along the seafloor


the heart is an octopus

too clever for its own good


the heart has a head

and sends out pain signals


the heart is governed by legislation

that only goes so far


i am already dying like an octopus

but i will also live like an octopus


puzzling my way out of the cage


when i fight i fail

my brain is big and my teeth are small


my heart has eight limbs

puzzling and reaching


sometimes at the centre

there is negative space


i am mounding up home

hiding from sharks


Emma Hercus art bio

Born in Aotearoa, NZ.

Winner of the New Zealand National Contemporary Art award 2022.

Emma’s work is a fusion of imagination, vague memories, dreams, history and legends. Of people met in the mind’s eye and folk known for years. Each piece has a vague story for the viewer to conceive. Each viewer tells a different tale.

Emma’s use of paint is experimental and purposely accidental. Layers of colours, textures, and patterns. Frequently she paints over a painting creating a murky history underneath that peeks through. Building up a narrative of ideas and concepts that give the viewers glimpses of a mythical and magical world that lives around and within all of us. Using strongly intentional strokes of the brush that leave a rough texture, pushing and pulling the paint, scratching, and scraping it back.

Growing up in rural Aotearoa, inspiration is often taken from childhood memories and dreams. The common thread throughout Emma’s work is that we need to take care of our place and its creatures, to celebrate both those we still have and those which survive only in books and artworks. ‘To make people smile’.

Show Opening Tues10th - Sat 28th October

Opening Event: Thursday 12th October 6-8pm
Meet the artist & poetry readings by Michaela Keeble.

View exhibition


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