Honouring place in art

Samantha and her piece Bath Time in a Pirate Ship, made mostly with coffee. (Supplied)

Elsie Lange

Gisborne artist Samantha Gardiner remembers playing in a rambling Jacksons Creek as a child, going down in bare feet and gumboots to push through the reeds.

Ten of her artworks were on display in Auburn, California until late June, as part of an exhibition titled No Boundaries, drawing on her nostalgia of people, place, memory and belonging.

“Scattered in my artworks… are little bits and pieces of childhood memories, like drawing on sidewalks, playing hopscotch, making paper planes and flying them with friends,” Samantha said.

Her mixed-media pieces are dynamic and layered, moments of colour surface above neutral and darker tones, symbolic motifs superimposed over Basquiat-esque canvases.

After being contacted by a curator in the United States asking if she’d be interested in contributing work to No Boundaries, she created 10 artworks over six months, working to the exhibit theme to create without frames or limitations – to show things raw.

When asked how long she’d been an artist, Samantha said “ever since I was little”.

“I have memories of coming home from St Brigid’s Primary School… I’d walk in the door, open my bag and just start on the floor just drawing and colouring in and creating things,” she said.

“There’d just be a string of things out of my bag to the bedroom.”

Since she completed her tertiary art studies, Samantha made a living through exhibiting and selling her works while working in the industry.

“For the last two years, while Covid kicked in, I have built a studio and dedicated everyday to making art,” Samantha said.

“Just like a pig in mud.”

The artist speaks gently of her exhibited artwork Moth Eater, a tribute to her mum.

A magpie or another similar bird sits larger than life on the canvas, white eyes, beak and wings emphasised by the dark on the piece, a ring of yellow circling around the creature’s torso. Upon closer inspection, the bird’s texture is created by the stamps of many paint-covered leaves, and a white moth sits at its feet.

“[It] relates to my mum and memories of her in the early days, when Gisborne didn’t have many shops,” Samantha said.

“She was the only hairdresser here, there were just a handful of people. There’s a lot of symbolism around the moth… almost like a voice from the other side or getting messages from the other side.

“Meaning that my mum’s passed, but she’s still here. She’s enjoying the journey with me, so to speak, over in the states.”

Another piece featured in No Boundaries, Dear John, is a busy painting, featuring tiny detailed drawings of a chair and a writing desk, larger symbols of letters and cursive pencilled words across the piece.

“That relates to lots of Gisbornites who we’ve lost along the way. Our friends and cousins and brothers and sisters and mothers and whoever they may be,” she said.

To see more of Samantha’s work, head to: www.samanthagardinerart.com/.