Kathryn Carter

Between Earth and Sky  

In drawing painting and printmaking I explore the landscapes, seascapes and islands of the New Zealand Northland Coast. The exploration of geography reveals that isolation informs identity and affects habitation patterns, history, perception and memory.

The connection to the sea is a vital one for transport and trade and many islands still maintain a sense of wilderness as not all have been farmed and some are barely rocks. 

The shared memory of the place we call home is a fragmented one and the pieces of the landscape reflect a uniquely individual experience and relationship to landforms based on our collective history of use and recreation. Jackie Bowring, landscape architect, states that “landscapes are soaked in memory they represent who we are".

However between the earth and sky exists the realm of the horizon, the imaginary line and space between two dimensions, the earth plane and the sky plane. Within that volume of space the islands are scattered outward from the land and appear as specks on the horizon. 

The formal monumentality of the hills, islands and volcanic forms reflects Abel Tasman’s view of NZ in 1641 as “a large land uplifted high“ and at sea level many islands such as the 70m cliffs of the Poor Knights appear like vast cathedrals of rock. The light, shapes and tones of the rock faces and islands change with the passing of time, through the day from morning to evening and through the seasons of the years and provide a never ending source of inspiration for visual reflection. 

NZ poets Frame, Brasch, Baxter, Curnow, Tuwhare and Fairburn, to name a few, are some of the many writers inspired by the New Zealand landscape and join artists Woollaston, McCahon, McIvor, Hanly and Albrecht in their emotional commitment to expressing their feeling for it. A.D. Fairburn writes 'To A Friend in the Wilderness', “A cavernous rock in a sea of light .. Landward the far-off hills are walls of blue fringing the valley floor, broad map of summer the deepening green foretells the fall of leaves … time takes us on his back.“

"Painting is another form of feeling“ said John Constable and Woollaston echoes his words when he writes that his desire was to “harvest the rich emotions that come to me from the landscape“.

There is a sense of lasting stability provided by the land that I wish to express that contrasts with the transitory quality and temporary nature of human life as well as fragilty of wilderness places.

Allen Curnow mentions in the Tomorrow Poems 1935 “there is one sun the world over and one heaven's blue“ and in ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas', a poem set to music by Douglas Lilburn, Curnow expresses the idea and vulnerability of exploration which I think is what it is like to be a painter.

‘On a fine morning the best time of year 

Skies widening and the oceanic furies 

Subdued by summer illumination ; time 

To go and be gazed at going 

On a fine morning in the name of God 

Into the nameless waters of the world“