Matakohe Island 

 

My paintings in this collection, made Jan - April 2010, are a response to time spent on Limestone Island or Matakohe Island in Whangarei Harbour, Northland, New Zealand, especially around the concrete remains of the Single Men's quarters, now a stark shell of small enclosures, open in places to the sky and sun but still dark, lichen- encrusted and daubed with a rich texture of mould, graffiti, weather-stained and atmospheric with memories.

The sense of place and of the men who may have lived there, longing  for or remembering family life, is potent. Their seeing the beautiful view of Whangarei Heads as a backdrop to the machinery and chimneys of industry in their limestone-dusted surroundings,  their emotions and feelings appear as either  impressions or expressions of figures in the remains of the buildings. 

 

The past and the present mingle and overlap

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
If all time is eternally present.

 

(BURNT NORTON No 1

of 'Four Quartets' by T. S. Eliot)

Matakohe Limestone Works 1910

Mixed media, 760mm x 380mm

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Robert Remembered

Mixed media, 200mm x 200mm

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Mother and Child

Mixed media, 150mm x 300mm

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Dreams Through Doorways 1

Mixed media, 355mm x 255mm

$ 225

Lest We Forget

Mixed media, 150mm x 300mm

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Single Men's Quarters 3

Mixed media, 150mm x 300mm

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Single Men's Quarters 1

Mixed media, 200mm x 200mm

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Single Men's Quarters 2

Mixed media, 200mm x 200mm

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Dreams Through Doorways 2

Mixed media, 355mm x 255mm

$ 225

Dreams Through Doorways 3

Mixed media, 355mm x 255m

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Limestone Workers

Mixed media, 200mm x 200mm

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Artist Notes - Matakohe Limestone Works
 

Matakohe/Limestone Island Notes
Most research, apart from site visits, came from a wonderful book called ‘More than Just a Little Island’ by Tim Clark published by Friends of Matakohe-Limestone Island Society in 2001 as well as The National Library of New Zealand Photographic collection online (Timeframes)










 

Matakohe Limestone Works 1910 380mm H X 760mm












Now in the Collection of Friends of Matakohe / Limestone Island.
This piece was based on the photographic reference above with imagined colour. The views of Whangarei Heads and the Harbour in the background have changed little. Some gold leaf used in the sky and water, hint at the enduring and spiritual quality of the Land as it watches over change and decay. What was once a community of 200 men, women and children, homes and a school – now are only memories, shadows and some concrete remains gradually being colonized by Nature.

Robert Remembered
200mm x 200mm

Based on a photograph of Robert Mair who, with his Father Gilbert, evacuated 47 settlers into a cutter aptly called ‘The Trial’ when local Maori warned them of an impending invasion of a group of warrior Maori from the North in 1845. I was drawn to Robert’s photograph especially as my late father was also called Robert and wore a cap and long white beard not unlike Mr Mair!


Single Men's Quarters 1
200mm x 200mm

This was the first painting based on the remains of the concrete Single Men’s Quarters – and my experience being there in the eerie shells where once the labourers would return, white from the lime works at the end of a hard day to sleep, dream, or fret about loved ones left on the mainland. This figure ‘appeared’ sitting on the ledge and was worked up from imagination only and painted until he looked as though he should be there. I hope some of the starkness of Edward Hopper’s work and some of its poignancy might be something in a response to this small image. The gold here seemed to be some sort of honouring of the memories of the men who lived and worked in this space.

Single Men's Quarters 2
200mm x 200mm

My husband made a trip with me to the island and paintings 2 and 3 in the Single Men’s Quarters Series are based on his poses within the ruins – however the images of the men became different personalities as they were painted


Single Men's Quarters 3 300mm x 150mm
 

Lime workers 255mm x 255mm
This was based on a photograph in the collection of Dr Benjamin Pittman, and I loved linking into the characters of the workers – bemused by getting their photo taken, the central figure is one
of the Maori workers and his Mana was definitely palpable. Some of the men are mere impressions or shadows. I paid special attention to shoes- symbols of their work and their status.


Lest We Forget
300mmx 150mm

This Maori Chief ‘appeared’ in the corner of this room as a reminder that Maori families lived and cultivated the land here as well as fought bitter inter tribal battles over its possession before the early settlers arrived. The position of Matakohe Island within Whangarei Harbour was strategic and therefore powerful.


Mother and child
300mm x 150mm

Babies were born on this Island and whole families lived out their lives here at one time. These figures are from imagination but reference and honour the lives of ordinary folk during the extraordinary period in which the Limeworks were operational.


Dreams Through the Doorways 1
255mm x 355mm

These 3 paintings are imagination responding to the remnants of energy within the ruins of the shells of the singlemen’s quarters. Frustration, emotional pain, loneliness and despair must have been something the men felt as they returned to soulless tiny rooms for the night.



Dreams Through the Doorways 2 255mm x 355mm












A photograph of the remains of the Singlemens’ quarters

Dreams Through Doorways 3

355mm x 255mm
All paintings are mixed media including acrylic and oil paint, beeswax and gold leaf

© MOIRA PAGAN

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