Jae Frew - ‘Manu Kōngo - Birds of Yearning‘

Jae Frew - ‘Manu Kōngo - Birds of Yearning‘

Opening Night Thursday 2nd November 5:30-7pm 2023


Who and what inspires me?

My work is inspired by a range of influences that shape my artistic vision. Central to my inspiration are the Old Master painters, whose timeless techniques and ability to capture the essence of their subjects continue to resonate through the ages. I am drawn to the way they harnessed light, colour, and composition to breathe life into their creations, and I aim to echo this influence in my depictions of New Zealand's endangered and extinct native birds.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz's modern yet deeply emotive approach is another source of inspiration. Her work finds a tension between the vulnerability and inherent beauty of her subjects; a theme I explore in my avian portraits.

The conservationists of New Zealand, whose tireless work to safeguard the native species of Aotearoa inspire me. My creations aim to highlight their efforts and the fragility of the ecosystems they protect.

 Perhaps the deepest influence of all is the legacy of my Father, who taught me how to work with wood. His patient guidance and deep appreciation for the craft have shaped not only my technical skills but also my philosophy as an artist. Every frame is a bridge between generations and a reminder of the bond between creativity and craftsmanship.

These inspirations all converge to fuel my work. Each click of the camera, each touch of wood against wood speaks to the intersection of art, conservation, heritage, and the delicate beauty of our natural world.


What do you think it is about your work that immediately captures the hearts of collectors?

The subject matter itself holds a unique place in the hearts of many. Aotearoa’s endangered and extinct native birds speak to our innate desire to preserve the beauty and diversity of these Taonga.

 The works are grand and striking, with heavy bespoke wooden frames and formal fine-art style of portraiture. These stately settings and imposing scale heighten the beauty of form and plumage, and elevate the birds to the status of an ancestor or dignitary. As if alive, these still life subjects meet our gaze, and as in the tradition of portraiture, evoke a sense of personality and temperament which captivates the viewer.

 Lastly, collectors can be assured of the authenticity of every piece. Each frame is unique; handcrafted from reclaimed native timber, with a distinctive profile and detailing.


Can you tell us about your success as an artist and your biggest career highlight to date?

My solo exhibition at the Parnell Art Gallery this year was a fantastic way to launch my first series and the beginning of my journey in the art world. The exhibition drew attention from both art enthusiasts, media and conservationists, which was enormously encouraging.


What can we expect to see in this upcoming exhibition?

As you wander through this exhibition, prepare to be captivated by the vibrant plumage of the Kākāpō, the haunting gaze of the Huia, and the poignant absence left by the South Island Kōkako. Each click of the camera, each carved detail – they all speak to a collective determination to protect what remains and to resurrect what has been lost.

The exhibition will stand as a bridge between past and present, an homage to artistic heritage, and a call to action for the future. Step into a world where art is a mirror reflecting the soul of a nation's heritage, and let these evocative pieces stir your heart and mind.

My hope is that people will take a journey of reverence, remembrance, resurgence and will celebrate  Manu Kōingo - Birds of Yearning, a testament to the influence of art and the spirit of conservation.


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