Encounters with Indigenous Forest and Intuitive Painting



immersive painting, art and kotahitanga, kohekohe trees, Indigenous forest, multispecies connections, forestness, Ngāmotu, New Plymouth, ancestral Aotearoa


Ko te mahinga toi ka hono i te hinengaro, te tinana me te waahi. The practice of art connects mind, body and place. Painting is a great connector of being and place. It can promote strong connection to a particular forest. The process of painting is ideal for thinking with and elaborating an expression of human-plant-life relations. It animates the intensity of every exchange; it is an expression of being with the conditions. Through a painting-based art practice I have become very close to a particular site inside a fragment of an old growth forest named the Rātāpihipihi Scenic Reserve on the edge of Ngāmotu/New Plymouth city. Here, on the west coast of Te Ika-a-Māui, the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is in this place that I have spent a number of years painting alongside a group of centuries-old kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile), pukatea (Laurelia novae-zelandiae) and tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa) trees. Through the materiality and process of painting and being with these trees, I have come to articulate a concept of forestness. It is a deepening of my art practice as kotahitanga: practising “togetherness with forest.”

Author Biography

Leighton Upson, Massey University/Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa - Wellington Campus

Leighton Upson is a PhD Candidate in Fine Arts: Painting in a forest: A search for a new botanical visual language promoting human connection with native plants.

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