A broad canvas

Telling stories through art.

Telling stories through art.

Lina Marsh stands in front of the Awarua murals she painted for Gisborne District Council. They are based on the New Zealand native tree-themed offices in the new council building. The colour spaces represent parts of each rakau/tree — leaf, branch, trunk, bark, fruit and lichen. Each colour space for that tree represents the pillars of strength in the children of Tane Mahuta. The circular decals are patterns associated with the rakau/trees they float above. These patterns are hand-drawn on the computer then transformed into a kaleidoscope pattern. The circle is symbolic of wholeness and perfection, two things synonymous with nature. She also uses the circle to reference women and handcrafts. Picture supplied

Lina Marsh uses a variety of mediums for her art and has recently produced two artworks in public spaces. She talks to Kim Parkinson about her life and work.

Artist Lina Marsh has been making her mark on the Gisborne landscape with large, colourful murals.

With a varied career and growing reputation, Marsh has a finger in many pies. She is part of Wahine, a Maori women artists’ collective, and is involved in the Gisborne Quilters. She is also a qualified teacher and mother of five.

Her largest artwork to date is on the Business Applications building on Childers Road. Another adorns the entrance of the newly-renovated HB Williams Memorial Library.

Marsh’s art is colourful and symbolic, telling stories of migration and contemporary Pacific culture, with political feminist overtones.

She uses a number of mediums; painting, printmaking, collage, drawing, sculpture, crochet and sewing.

Her cultural heritage is a mix of Maori and Niuean and is strongly present in her work.
“My latest artistic response to my culture is the ink on my arms.”

The tattoo on one arm represents her immediate family, the other her ancestors.
“My ancestor arm is my working hand — my giving hand. It’s a direct link to those whose support and love is always present even when you don’t see them, and those who have passed and are present in spirit. It’s an acknowledgement of being a microcosm in a macrocosm.”

She supplied the initial design to tatau artist Terje Koloamatangi, owner of Small Axe Studio in Auckland, who worked with the sketches to create the final design.

Describing herself as a feminist at heart, Marsh says there is always a story to tell through her art and some deep meaning in it.

“There will always be some politics hidden in there.
“I am really about empowering women. I’ve just turned 45 this year and it’s an empowering age to be. You’re no longer a girl or a young woman. You’re a Queen!”

In her element

She is now teaching product design at Gisborne Girls’ High School and is in her element.
“I’ve got a lot of skills in craft, woodwork and design, and being multi-skilled is an asset when teaching product design.
“I love working in a girls’ school and inspiring and empowering young women.”

Marsh spent most of her life in Auckland. The inflated housing market there prompted her and husband Robbie Cleland-Pottie to relocate to Gisborne at the end of 2005 with their three children Tama, Grace and Kowhai. They have since had two more children, Taika and Jemima-Grae.

Both of her parents were artistic and creative people.
“My parents met at Western Springs College and were high school sweethearts.
“They were also members of the Polynesian Panthers, a political movement founded in 1971 by educated Pacific Islanders who fought against racist initiatives such as the dawn raids.”

She spent her early childhood in the Hokianga, her father Jimmy’s turangawaewae.

Her mother Kathleen was born in Niue and moved to Auckland as a three year old in the 1950s.
“Growing up in Horeke was very special. Living was simple and honest. Outdoor adventures occupied our days.
“We had a massive mango swamp behind us and it was full of treasures like old cart wheels and glass bottles and old toys.

“We’d find all sorts of stuff out there, depending on what the tide brought in. We had the forest directly across the road from us plus the water holes and beaches. It was awesome.”

Her father was tragically killed when she was eight. The family of five returned to Auckland and moved in with her grandmother in Waterview.

“We always got art supplies for presents — we were always encouraged in that way.
“I have warm memories of being at home from school sick and we would get colouring-in books and crayons or little models that we would make up. Those kinds of activities totally foster creativity.

“Right from day dot, if I was given money I would buy art materials.

“Because I lived with my nana and my mum, and they would crochet, knit and sew, they taught me these crafts. So not only was I buying felts and pencils, I was buying wool and needles.

“I declared really early on that I was going to be an artist.”

Marsh excelled at art at Mt Roskill Grammar School and later attended Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.
“I graduated with high marks and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in painting.
“I spent four years there and met Giles Peterson who is in charge of Pacific Studies, and he introduced me to the Pacific arts trust Tautai.”

Under Tautai, she has exhibited nationally and internationally. Marsh has also been a guest tutor and facilitator of the Fresh Horizons art workshops for senior high school Pacific Island students.

Hosting a workshop here in Gisborne

She is hosting a workshop in Gisborne at the end of term two and has already secured two Pacific artists, including Siliga Setoga. He is a screenprinter known for a series of tongue-in-cheek designs which are a play on words.

Marsh has got used to working in public spaces, but has found aspects of her outdoor mural projects challenging.
“You’ve got the pressure of people’s judgement . . . then there is the constant hum of traffic. And then you are at the mercy of the elements.”

Painting the mural on Childers Road was an awesome experience.
“I had to try not to get overwhelmed with the size of it and break it down into small portions.”

She could only work when the day wasn’t too hot. With the mural on Bright Street, it was the rain she had to work around.

Through her art she creates a dialogue about contemporary Pacific culture as it moves away from islands like Niue.
Works like One Armed Bandit respond to gaming machines tucked away into quiet corners of pubs while I.F addresses instant financing companies that sell Pacific people debt. Koe huhu he matua fifine (mother’s milk) is her ode to Pacific mamas.

She was invited to take part in the worldwide exhibition Cow Parade 2002, where she was given a life-sized cow and created a woven bovine using 600 harakeke (flax leaves).

Marsh also collaborates with her mother and created a body of work inspired by memories passed from her grandmother through her mother to her. For Taha, Tahi, One in 2008, she worked with artefacts from the Canterbury Museum and created three papier-mâché hiapo (bark-cloth) ponchos to highlight the effects of migration, assimilation, and the loss of identity through loss of language and other effects of colonisation. These works travelled to Niue to the first Niue Arts Festival the following year.

Marsh is now working on a series of six large panels for Makaraka School. July will see her committed to an exhibition at the museum with the Gisborne Quilters, and one at the Fresh Gallery in Otara with the Wahine collective about the role of Maori women in the suffragette movement. She is also preparing for an exhibition next year with Giles Peterson and will make a series of embroideries.

She has exhibited in and curated a number of exhibitions, the most recent being the 100 Day Project in Gisborne where she exhibited 100 tiki images and matched them with 100 of her favourite songs. Notable group and solo exhibitions include: Wa Hine, Paul Nache Gallery 2016; To Be Pacific, Tairawhiti Museum, 2014; Longitude, Kia Ora Aus Aotearoa, Ziegel oh lac, Switzerland 2011; The Art Studio, Rarotonga, 2007.

Lina Marsh uses a variety of mediums for her art and has recently produced two artworks in public spaces. She talks to Kim Parkinson about her life and work.

Artist Lina Marsh has been making her mark on the Gisborne landscape with large, colourful murals.

With a varied career and growing reputation, Marsh has a finger in many pies. She is part of Wahine, a Maori women artists’ collective, and is involved in the Gisborne Quilters. She is also a qualified teacher and mother of five.

Her largest artwork to date is on the Business Applications building on Childers Road. Another adorns the entrance of the newly-renovated HB Williams Memorial Library.

Marsh’s art is colourful and symbolic, telling stories of migration and contemporary Pacific culture, with political feminist overtones.

She uses a number of mediums; painting, printmaking, collage, drawing, sculpture, crochet and sewing.

Her cultural heritage is a mix of Maori and Niuean and is strongly present in her work.
“My latest artistic response to my culture is the ink on my arms.”

The tattoo on one arm represents her immediate family, the other her ancestors.
“My ancestor arm is my working hand — my giving hand. It’s a direct link to those whose support and love is always present even when you don’t see them, and those who have passed and are present in spirit. It’s an acknowledgement of being a microcosm in a macrocosm.”

She supplied the initial design to tatau artist Terje Koloamatangi, owner of Small Axe Studio in Auckland, who worked with the sketches to create the final design.

Describing herself as a feminist at heart, Marsh says there is always a story to tell through her art and some deep meaning in it.

“There will always be some politics hidden in there.
“I am really about empowering women. I’ve just turned 45 this year and it’s an empowering age to be. You’re no longer a girl or a young woman. You’re a Queen!”

In her element

She is now teaching product design at Gisborne Girls’ High School and is in her element.
“I’ve got a lot of skills in craft, woodwork and design, and being multi-skilled is an asset when teaching product design.
“I love working in a girls’ school and inspiring and empowering young women.”

Marsh spent most of her life in Auckland. The inflated housing market there prompted her and husband Robbie Cleland-Pottie to relocate to Gisborne at the end of 2005 with their three children Tama, Grace and Kowhai. They have since had two more children, Taika and Jemima-Grae.

Both of her parents were artistic and creative people.
“My parents met at Western Springs College and were high school sweethearts.
“They were also members of the Polynesian Panthers, a political movement founded in 1971 by educated Pacific Islanders who fought against racist initiatives such as the dawn raids.”

She spent her early childhood in the Hokianga, her father Jimmy’s turangawaewae.

Her mother Kathleen was born in Niue and moved to Auckland as a three year old in the 1950s.
“Growing up in Horeke was very special. Living was simple and honest. Outdoor adventures occupied our days.
“We had a massive mango swamp behind us and it was full of treasures like old cart wheels and glass bottles and old toys.

“We’d find all sorts of stuff out there, depending on what the tide brought in. We had the forest directly across the road from us plus the water holes and beaches. It was awesome.”

Her father was tragically killed when she was eight. The family of five returned to Auckland and moved in with her grandmother in Waterview.

“We always got art supplies for presents — we were always encouraged in that way.
“I have warm memories of being at home from school sick and we would get colouring-in books and crayons or little models that we would make up. Those kinds of activities totally foster creativity.

“Right from day dot, if I was given money I would buy art materials.

“Because I lived with my nana and my mum, and they would crochet, knit and sew, they taught me these crafts. So not only was I buying felts and pencils, I was buying wool and needles.

“I declared really early on that I was going to be an artist.”

Marsh excelled at art at Mt Roskill Grammar School and later attended Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.
“I graduated with high marks and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in painting.
“I spent four years there and met Giles Peterson who is in charge of Pacific Studies, and he introduced me to the Pacific arts trust Tautai.”

Under Tautai, she has exhibited nationally and internationally. Marsh has also been a guest tutor and facilitator of the Fresh Horizons art workshops for senior high school Pacific Island students.

Hosting a workshop here in Gisborne

She is hosting a workshop in Gisborne at the end of term two and has already secured two Pacific artists, including Siliga Setoga. He is a screenprinter known for a series of tongue-in-cheek designs which are a play on words.

Marsh has got used to working in public spaces, but has found aspects of her outdoor mural projects challenging.
“You’ve got the pressure of people’s judgement . . . then there is the constant hum of traffic. And then you are at the mercy of the elements.”

Painting the mural on Childers Road was an awesome experience.
“I had to try not to get overwhelmed with the size of it and break it down into small portions.”

She could only work when the day wasn’t too hot. With the mural on Bright Street, it was the rain she had to work around.

Through her art she creates a dialogue about contemporary Pacific culture as it moves away from islands like Niue.
Works like One Armed Bandit respond to gaming machines tucked away into quiet corners of pubs while I.F addresses instant financing companies that sell Pacific people debt. Koe huhu he matua fifine (mother’s milk) is her ode to Pacific mamas.

She was invited to take part in the worldwide exhibition Cow Parade 2002, where she was given a life-sized cow and created a woven bovine using 600 harakeke (flax leaves).

Marsh also collaborates with her mother and created a body of work inspired by memories passed from her grandmother through her mother to her. For Taha, Tahi, One in 2008, she worked with artefacts from the Canterbury Museum and created three papier-mâché hiapo (bark-cloth) ponchos to highlight the effects of migration, assimilation, and the loss of identity through loss of language and other effects of colonisation. These works travelled to Niue to the first Niue Arts Festival the following year.

Marsh is now working on a series of six large panels for Makaraka School. July will see her committed to an exhibition at the museum with the Gisborne Quilters, and one at the Fresh Gallery in Otara with the Wahine collective about the role of Maori women in the suffragette movement. She is also preparing for an exhibition next year with Giles Peterson and will make a series of embroideries.

She has exhibited in and curated a number of exhibitions, the most recent being the 100 Day Project in Gisborne where she exhibited 100 tiki images and matched them with 100 of her favourite songs. Notable group and solo exhibitions include: Wa Hine, Paul Nache Gallery 2016; To Be Pacific, Tairawhiti Museum, 2014; Longitude, Kia Ora Aus Aotearoa, Ziegel oh lac, Switzerland 2011; The Art Studio, Rarotonga, 2007.

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