AWA17: 5 mins with Erin Forsyth

Artist and illustrator, Erin Forsyth draws inspiration from the nature that surrounds us in her latest work.  Carefully researched over 18 months; Erin illustrates key characteristics of threatened species of land and forest, the ecological relationships sustaining them and which, in turn, they sustain.  Check it out this Artweek Auckland.

Describe your piece of work / installation in three words

Flora, fauna, taonga

What inspired it?

Rediscovering the link between cultural and biological diversity, or people and the natural environment. Each work illustrates key characteristics of rare and beautiful endemic species, the key ecological relationships that sustain them and which, in turn, they sustain.

What’s your creative process?

This particular series is research based. So before I begin a piece I will spend some time accessing and compiling information about a species or genus, and looking for strong reference images to work from. Often species are so rare that there are limited images available so I will use any number of photographs and information from my readings to work out the anatomical structure. I am learning as I paint and draw, not just about the species but about human impact, responsibility and relationships to them. The natural environment of Aotearoa, New Zealand holds so many remarkable creatures found nowhere else on earth and although I have heard that all my life I am just now beginning to understand how special it is and how important it is for all of us to treasure it. It truly is taonga and it seems urgent that the principles of kaitiakitanga, developed over centuries are understood and applied for prosperity.  It’s true I am no expert, but I am making new discoveries every day and I truly feel that it is my responsibility to acknowledge my privilege as an artist to continue learning and to share my discoveries as I make them.

What do you think of the Art scene in Auckland?  New Zealand?

The art scene in Auckland just keeps getting stronger. I have been making work professionally for almost 20 years now and am really excited to see it in it’s current phase of development. There are so many cultures and sub-cultures at home here. For a long time people have talked about Auckland being diverse but it feels like it’s taken until now to hear a diversity of voices come through. It seems partially by the deliberate effort of art institutions but also because people are quite rightly refusing to be ignored. In many ways the advent of social media seems to have activated a lot of necessary conversations about and provided a space for, unpacking cultural dissonance and celebrating difference. It’s been really important and I think that it’s having a huge impact not only on what we see in galleries but who. To me this difference is our strength and it’s great to see a programme such as Artweek Auckland in place to promote this diversity in visibility, and provide a common ground or network, which is just so essential in this phase of development.

Are there any artists / pieces of work that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

I am still plotting out my calendar for this year but I have to say I’m really looking forward to my partner Joshua Solomon’s performance as part of Late Night Art this year. Last year he tattooed Dominic ‘Tourettes’ Hoey as Dom did a poetry reading. It really pushed the possibilities of what could happen and this year looks to push it even further. I can’t say much more, but check it out, it will be worth it.

What is your social media of choice?

Hm I wish I could opt out… Can I say emails? Bullet pointed emails. Haha, seriously though I’m on Instagram and Facebook. 

My Instagram gets most of my attention and you can see some of my works in progress and some of my research up on there.  But I kind of feel like I’m not that good at it and I definitely despise the fact that a work I may have spent a month making is subject to the same critique as someone’s…body parts! It’s a very reductive algorithm in that way…

Who do you follow and where?

On instagram with relevance to this, naturally @artweekauckland @whitespacegallery @j.j.e.s   …… I’m also feeling @art.herbarium and of course @docgovtnz and @doctsambassador I’m quietly obsessed with @belizeraptorcenter too. Mainly though I just open an app and then get overwhelmed and close it…I have a theory about the projected self and it doesn’t correlate with my intentional self…

What are the top 3 tracks on your Spotify playlist right now?

Waiting room – Fugazi

Creature comfort – Arcade Fire

Living the classics – Aldous Harding

Word Association:

Auckland – home

Art – communication

Festival – sensory

Creative – subversive

Collaboration – connection

Politics – consumerism

Summer – shade


Punk rock environmentalism by Erin Forsyth at Whitespace Contemporary Art, 12 Crummer Rd as part as ARTWEEK AUCKLAND.

7-15 October, find out more.