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Plastic threat highlighted in debut solo show

Artist Paul Gadsby. His painting, ‘Matuku Moana’, features Lake Wairarapa and shows the impact of farming practices and human intervention on the landscape. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

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From plastic pollution in the sea to the impacts of intensive farming practices, a new art exhibition set to open at Aratoi, in Masterton, on Friday challenges viewers to consider their impact on native bird species and the environment.

It will be Masterton artist Paul Gadsby’s first solo exhibition and works well with the museum’s current water and environment exhibition themes.

He said he was “nervous but excited”, about the event.

The exhibition entitled ‘Takeaways’, features 10 paintings which capture environmental issues and people’s impact on native bird species and their habitat.

“Each painting has a unique story.”

“I depict an issue that is current, in our faces and needs immediate attention,” he said.

A self-taught artist, it wasn’t until 2012 that Gadsby picked up a paintbrush for the first time since college.

He was taught by New Zealand artist Robyn Kahukiwa and said this exhibition’s style was influenced by artist Don Binney.

Gadsby said he knew he wanted his art to include a message.

“The first painting I did was called ‘39 per cent clean New Zealand’. I’d just read an article about how 61 per cent of our rivers are unclean.”

The series of political bird paintings includes albatross, black billed blues, kahi [black stilt], and matuku [Australian bitterns] — all native birds, some of which are at risk of extinction.

Gadsby’s paintings explore many environmental issues including plastic waste, plastic ingestion by wildlife and longline fishing.

His work also examines the impact of high-intensity irrigation, farming activities, and the impact humans have had on the environment through interventions such as the Ruamahanga River diversion scheme.

Some of the backgrounds have been inspired by the scenery of the Tararuas and coastal Wairarapa.

He said he was concerned about the “lack of political will” to resolve these issues.

Gadsby hoped people would resonate with the messages contained in his works and that the exhibition would raise awareness of what’s going on.

‘Takeaways’ will open at Aratoi this Friday at 5.30pm. Gadsby will also speak about his work at a presentation on Saturday at 11am.

The exhibition will run until July 28.

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