The artworks of internationally renowned artist, Jenny Mehrtens, reflect what she sees as the essence of New Zealand – the natural beauty, culture, people and the stories that celebrate the diverse country.
Her art, which is created from a purpose-built, private art studio in historic Arrowtown and collected by local and international buyers, is influenced by her exploration of her cultural identity and “experiences in her journey as a Kiwi in the world”.
“Both Pakeha and Māori art and culture have been around me all my life and naturally I look to that for inspiration. I want to celebrate the beautiful images that I grew up with,” she says. “I have a huge regard and respect for Māori art and culture and am trying to navigate a commentary on this though my own art in a contemporary way.”
Jenny has created several distinctive series, including Life Lines and Making their Mark, which overlays traditional Māorikoru and kowhaiwhai patterning, on to images of early New Zealanders.
Her latest Elementalseries takes a different angle and relates to first discoveries.
“As a child, I spent a lot of time in a woodland and river setting in Southland’s deepest Waikaia. We would spend hours outside and nature was our playground. I’m hoping viewers discover things within these works as a child would, playing outside, instead of some virtual experience glued to a screened device. There is a lot of opportunity to have these formative values-based experiences in our country, to be reminded of the joys of nature.”
Jenny is known for her use of generic gold leaf and other variegated metals on oak board to create a unique surface and colour palette, representative of her work in many of her series.
“If you look closely at some pieces they reveal a swirling effect caused by the oxidation process, which involves several layers of heat-treated metals. It is my take on the ancient and testing technique of gilding. The results are so amazing as the light changes, reflected in the works.”
Each piece in her smaller works Jewelseries relates a researched story of a treasure, like a tiki from Māorihistory, or something of a similar character that intrigues Jenny. These complex works usually feature a textured, layered background and make use of both paint and gilding, resulting in pieces that sparkle and gleam like jewels.
A Jenny Mehrtens artwork provides a lasting reminder, particularly for overseas visitors, of their New Zealand experience.
“A lot of my work goes overseas to the homes of discerning visitors who fall in love with this country and I love it that a piece of my New Zealand is going out there into the world.I am proud that my works are seen and enjoyed everywhere –an amalgam and celebration of early and modern New Zealand and a blend of Māori and Pakeha, at the same time being worldly and contemporary.”
Jenny welcomes visitors to her modern studio at The Shed, adjacent to the Chinese Village. She is a ‘studio wholesale at source” private artist, only selling her work online and from her studio preferably by appointment. She is also often commissioned to undertake special works.
The at source system, above all, allows her to develop and maintain a close relationship with clients.
“How often do people get to meet the artist? I like to be able to tell my own story and can’t imagine anyone else telling it for me. It’s genuine and more fun.”