It is thirty years since my first solo exhibition on the tail of a dragon at Denis Cohn Gallery in September 1979. The work that I showed at the gallery in Darby Street had been made in my first two years as a jade carver working at Parnell Workshops and Waiwera.
While some of the work was obviously that of a learner, certain pieces stand out and still remain important. Induction Disc, made from black Australian nephrite, was a huge technical achievement and it is now in the Auckland War Memorial Museum collection. Eye of the Storm was made from a pebble that was given to me on my first jade prospecting trip to Westland in March 1979. I returned to Waiwera with it in my pocket, and went into the workshop and carved the vortex in an inspired and concentrated session. It was shown “not for sale” at the exhibition and I have never considered parting with it. Broken Shell was carved from South Westland jade for my parents and was also shown “not for sale” in the show.
I still have five other works from the show: two arrowheads carved in Australian nephrite, and the limaçon, which was the first of these forms that I made and when it was unsold I began wearing it until it was accidentally broken. And then there are the two black jade pendants which I never really liked and which disappeared into a box of similar work and never saw the light of day until now.
I know where a few of the sold works went but others have disappeared. I always knew that when I let the works go, they would begin their own journeys and that I would rarely know the places they went or the company they kept.
My journey of the past thirty years has often been difficult, but this has only made me more determined to persevere. Riding the jade dragon has propelled me on a long arc into new territories. There was rarely a precise straight-line connection between works, and often there were tangents to the arc that shot me willingly or unwillingly off on new creative trajectories. Having kept detailed daily notebooks for the entire period I can look back and see the genesis of ideas, their evolution and influence. Often a new idea comes to me in a dream, or in a trick of light glancing off a new work when I visualise something other than what I have just made. The springs of creativity never cease to amaze me, and if new ideas did not magically materialise I doubt that I would know how to summons them. This mystery continues to inspire me.
Many people have supported me over the past thirty years, and for that I am deeply grateful. Without your encouragement and enthusiasm, your love for my work, the way you wear or hold it, the stories you tell me about the places it goes with you, my arc would have been far different and nowhere near as exciting.