‘From Across the Seas’

Janet de Wagt

6 March – 5 April 2009
Riverton Community Arts Centre – Riverton, Southland, N.Z.

Acknowledging her Dutch heritage has inspired artist Janet deWagt to create art works that reflect her love for her father’s native homeland. “From Across the Seas” celebrates her father’s journey to New Zealand, bringing with him his Dutch culture and family history.

The imagery that her Father brings is the imagery of the 1950’s frozen at that point in time. All travellers to New Zealand have to come ‘over the seas’. With this in mind Janet has merged these visual images with her family history and her sense of New Zealand identity. The wave of Dutch immigrants in the 50’s is celebrated in Janet’s exhibition.

As a kiwi child the family “across the seas” were symbolised by photographs, letters, Dutch food, and Dutch Gin! “I might have been brought up as a Kiwi, but genetically I can’t fight my gene pool” While it was a shock to Janet, her recent diagnosis of breast cancer has allowed her to add a twist to this exhibition. Janet acknowledges her cancer in her artworks and the “journey” that the disease has also travelled throughout her Dutch whakapapa and family history. Although I cannot speak Dutch, I haven’t escaped my Dutch genes and this has been made more significant by the diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy. Like Rembrant’s women, Janet is larger than life, her artworks reflect the energy, beyond the black and white shadows, putting the process in a visual context through Rembrant paintings.

The glass hearts symbolise the shadows on the walls, continuous words from her childhood, Friesland and Dutch, the difference in language and in someways they appear as completely different countries.

The Friesland canal boat bobbing around on a huge a Pacific Sea, symbolises what happened to a lot of the Dutch when they came here, “just bobbing up and down”, very isolated. The old traditional Dutch symbols slowly disappear and the ‘free’ symbols of New Zealand birds take over – in part my father always liked birds! I have used copper leaf and gold leaf, as that symbolises “old Dutch” for me.

My father in his army uniform, shows what he left behind, his family, way of life on a small farm, and he was coming to a big unknown. He knew he would be working on a farm, hence the ‘sheep’.

The Kiwis reflect Dutch colours, Dutch lace – the homeland, held together in memories, the past of the homeland is contained in the present.

“From Across the Seas” exhibition is only the part of this journey. Janet has begun a large body of work which will continue expanding and travelling to other centers. As part of this process Janet is in the process of seeking a residency in Holland in order to further expand and develop the visual imagery of Dutch Migration to New Zealand exploring the Dutch view of immigration to the ‘other side’.

“Watch this space”

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