Beauty and its purpose

Hong Kong hideaway

New Zealand artist Mark Schdroski has been domiciled in Hong Kong for the last fifteen years. He lives with his partner, jeweller Edmond Chin, in Central Hong Kong. They own two apartments side by side, which they have developed into a single dwelling. Chin's clients are international; actresses wear Chin diamonds to the Academy Awards.

Schdroski's art is painterly, abstract, modernist. The pieces sit well inside the highly organised chaos of Hong Kong, especially the larger oils which are layered and detailed. Schdroski and Chin's own art collection is significant, their apartment stuffed with paintings, drawings and objets d'art. Wherever you look, art is there. At the back, they have a large terrace, unheard of in a city where many people live in a room.

Viewing of Schdroski's first exhibition earlier this year was by appointment. Despite his time away from New Zealand, the homeland's influence is still there. It is an outsider's view of the world; Schdroski is very curious and questioning. Last time I was in Hong Kong I bought a small oil which hangs on the wall into my office. The abstraction is clearly there, but I see human form, and also the sky – and I remember that all things are possible.

Beautiful women

Bridget Williams Books continues its re-writing of New Zealand's history, with the publication of A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brooks. Last year's Tangata Whenua did a brilliant job of recording a comprehensive Māori history, and A History of New Zealand Women sets out to re-position our cultural narrative of women. By exploring key periods and events through the lens of women's experience, the book "sheds a more holistic light on the way we view ourselves, and the understanding of where we've come from."

I very much admire Bridget Williams' mission. When we talked last week about the politics of publishing, Williams said that we must always live on the bridge between cultures. Her approach is very inclusive and collaborative, which makes for a much more rounded interpretation of our history. As a technician she understands the importance of the interplay between images and text, her histories are brought alive through photography and art. Artwork from Star Gossage graces the cover of A History of New Zealand Women. A woman's face is peaceful but her heart; the heart swirls.

Gossage continues her ascent as a significant New Zealand artist with a new exhibition at Tim Melville Gallery in Newton, Auckland. Gossage and Solomon Enos explore Mana Moana in the new body of work, a movement inspired by Tongan philosopher Epeli Hau'ofa who espoused an ocean-based philosophy, and strengthening of connections rather than "land-based thought systems that divide and separate." Gossage's characteristic style is there, so too the sunshine, the flora and the colour of the Pacific.


Chapter ten of A History of New Zealand Women opens with a photograph of my parents Pius and Arapera Blank, outside St John's Church in Rangitukia, where they were married in 1958. The minister leans forward to hongi my father, a Swiss migrant who'd been in New Zealand only six years at the time.

Arapera was quietly secure in her own aesthetic. She was also an English graduate; an Anglophile, obsessed with Shakespeare and Yates. She spoke English with an upper-crust accent. As Arapera moved from the country to the city and integrated herself into an increasingly European world, her look, her European husband, the Queen's English – these things were her weapons, taiaha, as she plundered the Brave New World for things she wanted. She first visited Switzerland in 1960.

My favourite Swiss aunt was Tante Zita, an exquisitely thin, elegant woman and couturiere in Rorschach. Zita washed her grey hair in beer and she would then would roll it into a chignon. Zita had long nails, which she painted everyday, and she smoked cigarettes through a long black cigarette-holder. I was an introverted and sensitive homosexual child but when I met Zita in Switzerland in 1970, I couldn't take my eyes off her.

Anxiety lived in Tante Zita like the purr of the hummingbird. It was constant and focused. Zita worried about her favourite and youngest brother Pius, who lived half a world away and had married into an indigenous culture she didn't understand. My three cousins, daughters of Tante Cecile and young girls when they met Arapera in 1960, were fascinated by my mother, who would sit quietly as the family chatted in Swiss-German. The girls were especially thrilled when Arapera took them swimming in Lake Konstanz, which forms a border between Switzerland and Germany. Because the locals admired the alien.

A History of New Zealand Women - Barbara Brookes in bookstores and online at

Mana Moana AKL HNL - Star Gossage and Solomon Enos at Tim Melville Gallery, 4 Wincester St, Grey Lynn, Auckland till 2 April

For someone I love - a collection of writing by Arapera Blank in bookstores and online at

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