Whanganui artist Lauren Joan Lysaght knows how to convey serious messages with humour and inventiveness.

Her exhibition, "The Silence of the Sheep", at the Rayner Brothers Gallery in Glasgow St explores the things that people keep quiet about and the reasons why they do it.

The series of idiosyncratic masks are made from sound-proofing fabric.

"I bought a bulk lot on Trade Me and I didn't have a purpose in mind," the artist says.

"It was only when I started creating the masks that I realised how well it fitted with the theme."


A vinyl snakeskin print handbag has been transformed into a slithering reptile in the hair of the Sisss Silence mask while there are tears flowing from the eye hole of a mask representing sorrowful silence.

"People often don't want to talk about money," says Lysaght of her horned mask with dollar signs.

The Hamilton-born artist has been described as "one of New Zealand's foremost social conscience artists" and she has exhibited her mixed media work since the early 1980s.

She recalls an employment situation in which one person was being paid considerably more than others and everyone was angry about it.

"I spoke out imagining that everyone else would do the same but when it came down to it I was on my own.

"I could not understand why the others stayed silent when they had such strong feelings."

• "The Silence of the Sheep" is at Rayner Brothers Gallery, 85 Glasgow St. Gallery hours: 12pm-4pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday.