« When I arrived in New Zealand it was like I received a big wave of life force »
International artist Frédérique Stref has showcased her latest collection And So On at a sunset exhibition on Point Chevalier Beach. The collection comprises twelve hand crafted abstract artworks in the encaustic style – each a manipulation of pigmented wax on wood panels – celebrating the landscape which has had a profound impact on the artist since she arrived on its shores in December 2019.
“After ten years of living in big cities across Asia, I had become so disconnected from nature and was feeling absolutely lost. When I arrived in New Zealand it was like I received a big wave of life force, energy, and power – I have been able to reconnect with nature and this exhibition is an expression of gratitude for the healing I have received living in this beautiful place,” says Stref.
There are very few artists using the highly complicated technique of encaustic painting or ‘hot wax painting’. The process involves carefully adding coloured pigments to the wax and then applying the molten medium to prepared wood. The effect is intricate layers of colour and texture which appear to swim on the surface.
“I really love this technique and working with these materials because it seems as if the wax is alive – I can have a lot of depth, a lot of light and a lot of contrast which is something I could not achieve with painting,” she says.
Stref first discovered the material while living in Amsterdam in the early 2000’s and immediately sensed that the texture and radiance of encaustic suited her sensory nature and would thereby enable her to express her deepest feelings.
The colours carefully captured in And So On reflect Stref’s natural surrounds today – from dazzling turquoise and fiery orange, to fuchsia and every shade of blue imaginable – they depict the colours of Auckland’s coastline throughout the seasons.
“I am inspired by the light, the open sky, the intensity of the ever-changing movement and colour and how the entire environment can change due to a cloud or a bit of wind. The light is so intense it takes on another dimension. I spent so many hours sitting out there on the beach contemplating. I don’t know if there’s another place in the world with such an open sky and intensity of colours and light,” she says.
It was only a matter of a few months after arriving in Point Chevalier in December 2019 before Auckland experienced its first of several lockdowns due to the pandemic. Being drawn to the ocean and the practice of yoga, Frédérique established According to the Tide, a group of locals who gathered each day according to the tide, to practice yoga on the beach and connect with each other.
“These past few months of restrictions have been challenging and it has been hard going through this lockdown, but there is always a silver lining. This time has brought me closer to nature and it has been just what I needed. It has helped me remain positive – nature has really saved me,” she says.
As Stref celebrated the unveiling of her collection at the north end of Point Chevalier Beach on Saturday 11 December, Mother Nature decided to show up with the wind and rain. However, it was not enough to dampen the spirits of those in attendance – sheltering under the giant Pohutukawa trees, guests laughed, chatted excitedly about the artwork, enjoyed beautiful French food and wine and were caught up in the moment of connecting with each other, with nature and with art.
Interview by Catriana Montalvo, Editor.