Whanganui landscape artist Sue Cooke's exhibition, A Songless Land showing at the Percy Thomson Gallery in Stratford addresses the past and current deforestation of New Zealand's indigenous forests.

Cooke funded the work with a grant from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation in New York.

The foundation was established in 1985 for the sole purpose of providing financial assistance to individual working visual artists of established ability through the generosity of the late Lee Krasner, one of the leading abstract expressionist painters and the widow of Jackson Pollock.

Cooke says A Songless Land is made up of three distinct series of artworks.


"In the large gallery eight tall, thin, collagraphs on canvas focus on the theme of destruction using totems and ghost trees inspired by the dead kauri trees of Northland and the mature beech trees of Southland.

"The centrepiece is Long Hee Lee, the image focuses on the theme of regeneration."

The Beech at Ohau series of 11 monoprints highlights the melancholy beauty of the surviving beech forests.

Cooke says she has used the mediums of ink, canvas and paper to focus the audience's attention on protecting New Zealand's small and ever-diminishing indigenous forest stock.

"There was a time, in Aotearoa, when early European settlers' children could not hear their teachers in the schoolroom due to the deafening sound of the indigenous birdsong.

"The birds thrived in an ecosystem of mature forest lorded by the ancient columns and canopies of kauri, beech, rimu and totara giants."

The artist says the exhibition is also about climate change which is closely linked to deforestation and is the issue of our times.

"Kauri dieback is another side effect and a particular issue that requires New Zealanders to take action."

A Songless Land: Percy Thomson Gallery, Prospero Place, 56 Miranda St, Stratford. 10.30am to 4pm weekdays and 10.30am to 3pm until March 24.