Working from her Cromwell studio in the 117-year-old cottage she calls home, artist Rachel Hirabayashi creates paintings and sculptures that reflect the colours and landscapes of the area. Her artworks have a sense of narrative as well as a calm stillness within them. Some investigate her knowledge of geology, while others represent the history of Central Otago towns and the movement of people within them.
For inspiration, Rachel often travels in her motorhome ‘Fordita’, visiting out-of-the-way areas of the country and spending time in open spaces.
“Driving means you glimpse sideways to see the landscape and those images often stick in my mind and are what I use to start imagining the landscapes of my paintings. They’re not anywhere in particular but I hope to catch something of the spirit of a place,” she says. “Over the last couple of years I’ve been going to Bluff and watching the harbour with the working port, ships and containers. It’s an interest in altered landscapes. It’s like the church or township in the middle of nowhere –humans trying to work the land, to occupy the place and progress.”
Her sculpture is created from recycled metal, twisted and manipulated then braised to create a patina. Some larger sculptures are on display in her garden, which makes an intriguing and colourful stop for people viewing Rachel’s art.
“It’s an eclectic cottage garden with sculptures, friendly dogs and friends,” she says. “The studio and house are densely packed with things found while travelling in Fordita. And plenty of art.”
Rachel uses acrylic paint to create layers of washes, working with spray bottles to encourage drip marks and deliberate stains across the paintings. She sees art as second nature, with her father a well-respected, full-time artist while she herself studied Art History and Religious Studies at the University of Otago before settling in Cromwell.
Rachel recently joined Indigo Artists, an alliance of Central Otago artists who come together to get their work exhibited in different locations.
“The wider field and numerous shows mean we are all busy and it’s great seeing our work in big spaces.”
Her work is often displayed at Eade Gallery in Clyde, Athol Gallery in Northern Southland, Objects of Art in Old Cromwell and Wanaka Fine Art Gallery. With Indigo, she is also being shown during the yearat The Rippon Hall in Wanaka, Mandeville near Gore and Arrowtown’sLakes District Museum and Art Gallery.