Born in Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge is of Ngāti Maniapoto descent, a tribe based in the Waikato-Waitomo region of New Zealand’s North Island. Leonie wed and moved to Fremantle, Western Australia in the 1970s – where she has lived ever since. “I have always been creative, out of necessity,” she says. “I made all my clothes using one pattern and changing it up with material – adding things like black felt stars on a white mini dress. I didn’t take up art seriously till my late 30s.” Leonie attended Claremont School of Art, followed by a Creative Doctorate at Curtin University in 2018.
Leonie’s recent works seek to explore her identity, using the landscape to connect to her Māori heritage. “When I immerse myself into a landscape that I am familiar with, this sense of belonging feeds into my paintings,” she says.
“I haven’t been back to Aotearoa, New Zealand for a while, so I rely on my collection of photos to activate my memory of place. Māori see the land as a living entity. This relationship and connection ultimately shapes who we are and our existence. Māori have a saying, ‘We are the land, and the land is us.’”
The artist says her exaggerated colours are used to take notice of the land. She uses dots, spots and crosses as pervasive iconography. The cross represents her belonging, and her gold gilt frames “reframe the land,” she says. “I am developing a visual language to engage with the landscape…what my marks hold are intangible in the physical sense, but they allude to a clear and definite system of oblique storytelling.”
The visual artist works with synthetic polymer, anything from house to artist quality paint. “I don’t follow the hierarchy of the Western canon of painting, I live and work on the margins, where everything exciting happens,” she explains. Some works can be done within a week, but most take two to three weeks to complete. “After years as an artist, I work intuitively – tacit knowledge comes into play,” Leonie says. “My studio is organised chaos. Once I’m painting, time just disappears, I come into my own.”
Leonie has exhibited consistently for more than twenty years in Australia and New Zealand. She has received a number of awards, including finalist in the Joondalup community Invitation Art Awards. This year Leonie has been invited to exhibit in the Bangladesh Biennale.
Featured image: Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge, A Particular Understanding In The Margins. Synthetic polymer, pencil, board in found frame, 130 x 80cm. Courtesy: the artist.