Past and Present - A focus on New Zealand heritage

Paintings by prominent artists with an interest in the protection and restoration of Auckland buildings and beyond.

As artist David Barker succinctly puts it, “the images in this exhibition show something of this precarious and often threatened heritage. These works become part of a valuable inventory, described with great care. In them lies an archival documentation worth retaining as it touches us all, however brief our history.”

These images have emotional resonance, functioning as commentaries on the architecture and craftsmanship of a bygone era. One particularly stunning work, the villa at 28 Cheltenham Road, shows perfectly elegant lattice work and balustrades, set in what would have been pristine gardens with forlorn palm trees rising above the two-storey historic home. Smudged in grey and raw umber, a sense of doom sweeps over the painting as if knowing its pending demise.

Artist John Horner has a long-standing interest in heritage buildings. Some buildings he has painted have since been destroyed, or left to decline. Since his youth he has seen the demise of harbour ferries, steam trains and trams. Horner observes a recent resurgence of interest in old villas, partly due to the leaky home syndrome.

Murray Dewhurst grew up in a naturally beautiful part of the country, but one with virtually no built heritage. After a move to Auckland he discovered the mighty villa and all that beautiful Victorian decoration and the endless combination of detail that separates each one from the next. “Built by hand by real craftsman using native timber including the endangered kauri, they deserve a lot more protection than they currently get.” Dewhurst sketches them before they are demolished for apartments.

Graham Downs paintings are a synthesis of sketchbook drawings and memory expressing the visual poetry that resonates within the bounds of our past and present. The landscape and the heritage that defines us, comforts us, and inspires us to look forward. “To express tranquillity in my own language and let my paintings be a refuge from the everyday tribulations is my raison d'être.”

These talented artists have to captured the essence of our past to preserve it for future generations.

Featured artists: David Barker, John Horner, Graham Downs and Murray Dewhurst. Opens 14 March, 5.30pm. Exhibition runs to 3 April 2018.

Railway Street Gallery, 8 Railway St, Newmarket,