On a recent road trip through the central north island of New Zealand, I spent a night with artist Cinzah Merkens and his family at their home in Napier. After a morning stroll with the kids to the local farmers market, we found a sunny spot in the backyard to sit and chat about his new home and his thoughts on life and art.
What have you been working on this year?
I’ve been doing a lot more wall painting. Stepping away from digital illustration and focusing on murals, which are mainly based around storytelling related to the places where they are painted. I’ve painted big walls in New Plymouth and Wanganui and a lot of little ones here in the Hawkes Bay.
I’ve been doing a lot of research into the areas where I am working and discovering weird little stories about rebellious dudes throughout New Zealand history
What do you enjoy most about your current work?
I’ve been doing a lot of research into the areas where I am working and discovering weird little stories about rebellious dudes throughout New Zealand history that I had no idea about. There are all these funny little folklores and random characters from small towns who did awesome things back in the day and have impacted modern society.
What is the most interesting location you have painted recently?
Every wall is different because there are different communities and different business owners. It’s just cool having a yarn to the people who live in these spots and actually interacting and engaging with them. It is nice doing something where I feel like it actually has a little bit of a social impact on the environment where I am working and is not just about doing what I want to do.
Tell us about your recent move to Napier.
We’d been toying with the idea of leaving Auckland for a while so we went on a road trip to unofficially check out a few spots. We drove down the west coast and went through Taranaki and across to Wanganui and the Manawatu, then over to the east coast. Napier and the Hawkes Bay was one of our last stops before heading back up north and we just fell in love with it.
How have you found living here is impacting your work?
It has allowed me to simplify life, have a studio at home, spend more time with my family, and just paint.
I think the coastline and the landscape here is really beautiful and there is a lot to draw from. I’ve been drawing influence from nature and the New Zealand environment for a while, but it feels like now it is more of a true influence because I am surrounded by it.
How are you finding the cultural scene here?
I had no idea what was here and there is more of an art scene than I expected.
I guess the creative community that I would usually work within is not really here, but I think it’s nice because it’s a fresh palate and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of existing mentalities or judgmental behaviour towards what I do because it is new.
How do you think travel influences your work?
I think that it is always going to be there and I love it. It is a big part of my practice, like with this series that I’m working on at the moment everything is site specific so in order for the work to be relevant, I need to be in that environment.
I’ve been painting all over the country this year, which I didn’t expect. I think its one of those things, once you leave the city it’s kind of fun just driving and the country is beautiful, so I just go to wherever the work is.
I guess moving to the Bay for me was in a big way about simplifying my lifestyle and enjoying what New Zealand has to offer
Do you have any philosophies that influence your lifestyle and your work?
Simplifying things. Stripping back all the bullshit to simple storytelling.
I guess moving to the Bay for me was in a big way about simplifying my lifestyle and enjoying what New Zealand has to offer and that definitely comes through in my work.
A lot of the subject matter of my work these days is focused on native flora and fauna, and abstraction of character. I really enjoy old traditional storytelling, folklore, and mythology, whether it is New Zealand Maori, Cook Island Maori or European and I find there are a lot of the same stories that are told and that they are really beautiful ways of relating to our environment.
What’s your plan?
I’m establishing a company that’s going to focus more on everything that I do outside of my own art practice. Projects that I feel can have a relevant impact through doing something bigger than just myself and working with other people. I would love to work with creatives from different fields, from digital media and commercial work right through to artistic projects and fashion and cultural exchanges.