A painting by Nelson artist Anna Leary is to be part of an exhibition at New Zealand House in London and an auction to raise money for an endangered bird. Leary's nine panel work It's a Sitting Duck will be part of a show organised by the New Zealand Society to raise awareness of the plight of the Campbell Island Teal. The painting will later go under the hammer, along with other works from the exhibition, to raise money to help save the species from extinction.
Leary was invited to donate a work to the exhibition and fundraiser. However, rather than send any painting, she decided to research the bird and create an artwork about its struggle for survival. "I wanted to make a work specifically about the issue,'' she says. "It's New Zealand's rarest duck. The population is now around 130 but it has been less than 20.''
The painting's main colours are gold, to represent preciousness and teal - a literal reference to the bird. It includes a small image of Campbell Island and calculations relating to the bird's decline and the positive impact of breeding programmes. The panels also represent a game of noughts and crosses that no one can win. One includes the image of a veil, a reference to revealing the bird's plight. Sharp-eyed observers may also spot the ghostly image of a duck in one of the panels. Leary wanted the image to be like the Campbell Island Teals themselves, "enigmatic, secretive and nocturnal.'' It is not the first time Leary has included a hidden image in her work. "I call them whispers. My works often have things that you can only just see,'' she says.
London art dealers and New Zealand businesses with a presence in the United Kingdom are being invited to the exhibition which is being hosted by New Zealand High Commissioner Jonathan Hunt and opens on August 8. The auction will be held at Marlborough House in London on September 2 and be hosted by Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon.