She first exhibited in Wellington in 1981 and in 1985 she won the Whitcoulls Award for Drawing. Three years later she exhibited for the first time in Auckland, and was given a solo exhibition at the Wellington City Art Gallery, entitled From Pillar to Coast.
Leenard’s intention has always been to convey the inner qualities of the land, such as the facts and effects of its history, rather than its overt characteristics, and to capture a sense of shifting climatic conditions. She uses photographs to record changing weather patterns so that she can evoke them later in her paintings. At times she has painted works in sections, to give the effect of a series of snapshots, or of the fractured images a traveller sees from a train window.
There is a strange feeling of deja vu to Gerda Leenards work, the feeling of almost seeing what is there, or perhaps, what is not. Like thinking you can recognise the image from a distance, but on closer inspection it changes and, as a result, creates even more uncertainty. This hazing of shapes and horizons has been an ongoing concern for Leenards.
Leenards tries to connect the viewer in the environment she presents, engaging one with the abstract and emotive qualities of the environment, as opposed to the comfort of distance created by instantly recognisable landscape motifs.
Gerda Leenards is represented in several private collections throughout New Zealand. She has also been included in several curated exhibitions, the most recent being a survey exhibition at Lopdell House Gallery in Auckland.