Art New Zealand Magazine

Holly Zandbergen/ Compositions of Nature at Black Asterisk Gallery reviewed by Michael Dunn

September 2018


Creative Conversations: Canterbury artist Holly Zandbergen an international art success

The Press Newspaper, Article by Jack Fletcher

May 8th, 2018

Timaru-born and Christchurch-based artist Holly Zandbergen has work in London and New York galleries. She currently works from studio space at The Old School in New Brighton.

Timaru-born and Christchurch-based artist Holly Zandbergen has work in London and New York galleries. She currently works from studio space at The Old School in New Brighton.

Holly Zandbergen's work hangs on gallery walls in London and New York.

Sir Jerry Mataparae, once Governor General and now New Zealand High Commissioner in London, bought a piece last year after he opened her first professional exhibition. There were squabbles between buyers over who would buy which piece.

"My style is probably called expressionism, or impasto, so like Van Gogh," the 26-year-old said from her studio space at The Old School in New Brighton, in Christchurch.

"It is all to do with my emotional and subjective response to the subject rather than painting a really realistic depiction of it."

Zandbergen creates 'impasto' art, defined by thick paint on a canvas where the brush strokes and blade marks are visible.

Zandbergen creates 'impasto' art, defined by thick paint on a canvas where the brush strokes and blade marks are visible.

Impasto is defined as applying very thick layers of paint to a canvas, often accentuating the brush or knife strokes.

For many of her paintings, Zandbergen said she used upwards of 80 200 millimetre tubes of oil paint, meaning her pieces were heavy and expensive to create.

"My most expensive painting was about $2500 just in materials," she said.

Paintings could take anywhere from three days to two weeks to complete. Zandbergen restricts herself to two hours per sitting and often switches between works.

Zandbergen had her first exhibition while living in London, where she sold a painting to former Governor General Sir Jerry Mataparae, who opened the show.

Zandbergen had her first exhibition while living in London, where she sold a painting to former Governor General Sir Jerry Mataparae, who opened the show.

Through paint-covered headphones, she said music helped her "get out of my analytical mind, which is very busy".

"It gets me into a more creative way of thinking, the rhythm of the music transports into the painting. I wouldn't say I specifically paint to the music, it more just gets my internal rhythm going," she said.

Originally from Timaru, Zandbergen graduated from the Dunedin School of Art in 2013. After six months working and still unsure of her artistic purpose, she travelled to Europe.

"I went to galleries in every city to see if I felt a need or a desire to pursue art and I did. So I went to London and worked as a live-in au pair in Wimbledon, then found a studio and rented that," she said.

She entered 33 art competitions while starting out and was accepted into three. In 2015 she was given the Young Artist's Award and £5000 ($9660) at the National Open Art competition, which she said gave her a much-needed leg up into the professional art world.

Before she returned home, Zandbergen was asked to sign with Rebecca Hossack who runs galleries in London and New York. It was with Hossack she held her first exhibition.

When Stuff spoke to her, she was busy preparing pieces for her solo show Compositions of Nature at Black Asterisk in Auckland, opening on June 14.

"For this show, I've used mainly photographs that I've taken from my mother's garden, translating those into my own perception of the scene," she said.

"I've always loved mum's garden."


November 3rd, 2017

Behind the Art: An Interview with Holly Zandbergen

Holly Zandbergen is a young artist from New Zealand who recently showed her exquisite mountainscape paintings at a solo exhibition, "I Sit In The Blue Of The Hills" at Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London. She was shortlisted for the New Zealand Art Show Emerging Artist Award in 2013 and won the Prudential Best Young Artists Award, The National Open Art Competition in 2015.  Her vivid use of colour and textured approach to painting transports the viewer to the sublime natural surroundings of her native country and we were delighted to learn about the inspiration and influences behind this talented artist's work. 


1. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Early bird.


2. Are you a tea or coffee person?

Both- I always start my day with plunger coffee and drink a mix of teas throughout the day.


3. When did you first feel your calling to create art?

I remember discovering a real passion for painting in high school. Learning about the French Impressionists’ use of brushwork to convey air, light and colour strongly impacted the way I expressed myself at the time.


4. Can you remember the first piece of art that you ever created?

I remember taking great pride in a drawing I did around the age of 8. It was of the hands of a maori god Tane reaching down from the sky and planting trees into the earth. I really enjoyed figuring out the structure and form of the hands. I remember my teacher being quite impressed!


5. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from everyday life - emotions, interactions with people and my surroundings, nature, music, seeing good art in the flesh. Before I start a painting, I like to feel “topped up” in energy which includes physical, mental and spiritual. There’s a need to withdraw into one’s self and be in silence in the studio.


6. Do you listen to music while you work? If so, who or what kind of music do you listen to most?

I’ve had periods where I can’t listen to music at all and then I’ve had times where music has generated a tone or energy for an entire painting. Cat Power was someone I use to listen to on repeat at art school which generated a lot of raw emotion. Joanna Newson’s rhythmic harp playing and dynamic storytelling has always been a catalyst for creating landscapes. Recently, I’ve just started playing Nina Simone’s Baltimore album which also takes me into another time and place.


7. What is your favourite colour and why?

I like deep madders, prussian blues and crimsons that create coloured ‘blacks’ and can lighten into vivid hues.


8. What is your most creative time of day (or night)?

The morning when I am fresh and most alert. I find as the day goes on, my energy to paint in an instinctive way diminishes and I become a bit laborious. Its always a challenge to stay present and purely in the moment.


9. Do you have a muse or role model?

Frank Auerbach is a huge role model for me in mainly his commitment and joy for his practice. He’s now 86 years old and still paints everyday. I recently saw him in London crossing the street which was very humbling to know he's still out there doing his thing. I also love the openness with which Joan Mitchell approached a painting like they were internal landscapes.


10. What is your most important work tool?

At the moment, it is my palette knife which I’ve transitioned to from my old faithful brush this year.


11. Is there a specific place where feel most productive?

It would have to be in my studio as this is the only place I can paint due to the mess I make!


12. What piece of work are you most proud of?

A painting I did in my second year of art school called “Figures by the River.” It was the largest painting I had attempted at 1.2 x 2m and I treated it as an experiment to really enjoy the process and used a large amount of acrylic paint very fluidly. It was a difficult time personally with the loss of my brother so I had to draw all of the energy resources I could gather to make that painting. It then went onto be nominated for the NZ Emerging Artist Award where I made the top 9 in NZ and was bought by an art collector at the NZ Art Show before opening night.


13. What are you currently working on? 

I’m lucky enough to always be working on private commissions, which generates most of my income. My main focus is creating new work that continues to explore the mountain series, with which I had a show called “I Sit In The Blue Of The Hills” with the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London recently this year. I will be exhibiting in the Auckland Art Fair 2018 with Black Asterisk Gallery and I will continue to send the mountain works to Rebecca Hossack to be shown in future art fairs and exhibitions next year.


14. Do you look at the work of other artists?

Yes, mostly before I start a new series of work and I am absorbing all of the information I can gather. During painting, I don't look at a lot of other artists apart from on instagram, as I like to have my own organic experience when painting.


15 What do you think makes art good?

A thorough examination of the subject where the artist hasn't stopped as soon as something looks “good” but is incomplete. I think you must be willing to go deeply into uncertainty and grapple with not knowing if it is going to work. This is when most learning and growth takes place.


16. What other contemporary artists do you currently admire most?

The work of Cecily Brown, Peter Doig, Su Dong Ping and Antony Micallef fascinates me.


17. Do you have a favourite city to visit?

Paris will always be one of my favourite cities because of its classic charm, romantic qualities and also my love for the French Impressionists. It was the first place I travelled to when departing on my solo trip through Europe.


18. Name your top 3 holiday destinations:

Indonesia, India and the deep south of America.


19. What is your favourite gallery or museum in the world?

There are so many. I always loved visiting the Royal Academy while I lived in London. Musée de l'Orangerie containing Monet’s large water lilies is very special. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and the Picasso museum in Barcelona I thoroughly enjoyed.


20. How would you describe your fashion style?

Quirky, feminine and relaxed.


21. What is your most treasured possession?

My phone!


22. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I would be working in the visual production of film/cinema. Not sure which area, it could be costume, set design or cinematography.


23. What advice would you give those wishing to pursue a creative path?

Be true to who you are.

The Londonist: Things To Do Today In London

Art review: Stunning Mountains, September 15th, 2017


Holly Zandbergen paints beautiful mountains using lashes of oil paint, so they almost pop off the canvas. The depth can't be appreciated until you see these luscious large scale works in person. There are only a handful of them, but they are breathtaking. Holly Zandbergen: I Sit in the Blue of the Hills, Rebecca Hossack, 28 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NA. Free, until 30 September ★★★★☆ (Monday-Saturday) Tabish Khan

Create Magazine- Artist Feature

September 1st, 2017