5 August - 2 September

Jan Chaffey was born in the ‘south of the South Island’. She grew up with a great love of wild places and native plants. She is a dedicated environmentalist with a background in fine arts and botany.

Jan graduated from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in the 1950s and became a set designer with New Zealand Players Theatre Trust in Wellington. Here she enjoyed the opportunity to work in mixed media on a large scale, something she is again realizing, as she moves to her biggest canvases to date, in Exilio debuting at Little River Gallery.

Exilio is an exploration and celebration of New Zealand’s eight native kowhai. The series brings together a number of her interests – calligraphy, the painted narrative, abstract expressionism, and botany. Working in goache on paper and oil on canvas, Jan’s latest series is bold and contemporary. Her painterly style is gestural and spontaneous and owes something to William de Kooning and Mark Tobey. Her real message, however, is about the fragility of our native flora and fauna and the importance of its preservation. She calls New Zealand ‘our inherited environment’ - something to be respected and treasured. Her paintings are a forum for raising awareness about the beauty and vulnerability of nature.

Through the medium of painting, using visual essays, Jan has helped to increase awareness about the beauty and fragility of New Zealand’s flora and fauna. Her passion for each is evident in every painting. Always an animated painter, Jan’s work has become increasingly free. She strives to rise above merely detailing the scientific specimen, to capture the essence of her botanical subject matter. And yet, every brushstroke represents discipline and restraint. Jan’s workbooks reveal her process is lengthy, considered, deliberate and measured.

In this series of kowhai paintings, the versatility and richness of this hardy native is evoked in liberal brushstrokes and rich colour. In both oil and goache, on small and large scale, the character of this quintessential native is realized anew. 

Jan has been exhibiting throughout the South Island for over 30 years. Her representative galleries have included Salamander and CoCA. This is her first show at Little River Gallery.

Over the past 25 years she has created a native plant collection at home. She has also initiated the replanting of a reserve area on the hills behind Tai Tapu, using locally collected seeds. It is part of her commitment to raising awareness within the local community about the importance of protecting our flora and fauna.

Exhibition Gallery