A Songless Land

Whanganui-based artist Sue Cooke’s new exhibition A Songless Land eulogises lost New Zealand forests, and highlights the plight of those forests remaining, including the devastating issue of Kauri dieback.

Before the arrival of humans in Aotearoa New Zealand, 85% of its land area was covered with indigenous forests. Now it’s a mere 15%. “Sadly, despite many organisations and individuals working to preserve and reverse the trend, New Zealand’s forests are still being lost, albeit at a slower pace,” said Cooke.

The artist chose to create large-scale artworks so that visitors feel enclosed, overpowered and dwarfed by the forest experience. The work was mostly a solo effort with some hands-on support from art student Olive Pegler and the artist’s husband Bryce Smith.

It took the artist three years to develop drawings, small scale models and artwork for this exhibition. The concepts evolved during a year of travel and research into deforestation around New Zealand, funded by the Pollack Krasner Foundation, New York, in 2015 and 2016.