Basia Smolnicki’s mother arrived in Wellington in 1944.
She was one of 730 Polish refugee children welcomed to this beautiful land.
Having survived Siberian internment camps,
and an epic overland journey to Uzbekistan,
she boarded a troop ship bringing weary soldiers home to New Zealand.
Across the strait, in the Marlborough Sounds, Totaranui, is a bay
where Basia’s family and friends gather in the summer holidays.
The area was a favourite place for Captain Cook
to replenish his ships and recover from his long voyages.
Cook named the bay, Shag Cove, but later explorers gave it the present name,
Resolution Bay, to honour Cook’s second vessel.
It was originally named by Māori as ata pō meaning ‘early dawn’.
Like its Māori name implies, the morning sun rises over Arapawa Island
and reflects off the beautiful, still, blue waters of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Shards of argillite in the shapes of small tools can be found on the sandy beach, evidence of historical food gathering and trade.
The native bush is regenerating and the place is now alive
with birdsong and ground-dwelling weka.
Basia's new body of work, called Treasure in the Wilderness,
combines motifs of her mother’s story of survival
with memories from this special place, ata pō.
|Basia Smolnicki, Treasure in the Wilderness, 2020
Woodcut, 100x70cm, edition of 5
|Basia Smolnicki, Sea Breeze in the Afternoon, 2020
Woodcut, 50x100cm, edition of 5
I loved that the works were substantial, most were 100x70cm.
They are bold graphic woodcut motifs,
but also have sensitive and intriguing visual storytelling.
Honestly, there were several I was keen to acquire for my own walls,
but with small edition sizes of just 5,
when I arrived a few days after the opening most were already sold out!
Deservedly so, Basia, I am a big fan.
The exhibition is on at Solander Gallery until 14 March,
I urge you to go visit if you're in the neighbourhood,
or you can check out all the images online at solandergallery.co.nz