Artist shows zany edge

19:15, Jul 01 2013
Coral Thiel
Second string: Coral Thiel, usually promoted for her jazz singing with husband Tony Thiel, is preparing for her first exhibition.

An interview with Blenheim artist Coral Thiel starts with an instruction: "I don't want to come across as a little old lady who paints."

It is a difficult description to avoid.

Thiel is both smaller and older than me and the house she shares with husband Tony is decorated with many of her paintings. Flowers arranged within wooden frames share wall space with cheeky, colourful cats smiling at each other on canvas.

Coral Thiel
Coral Thiel is not just 'a little old lady who paints'

Outside, brightly coloured porcelain roosters pose on the boundary fences.

The Thiels are well known in Marlborough for their jazz performances, Coral on vocals and percussion and Tony on keyboards in a trio completed by cornet player Robin Randall.

But art is something Coral does on her own.


She started 40 years ago when she and Tony were living in Germany and he was often away on business.

"I started to do it as a hobby, then I got interested in cast craft and I studied porcelain techniques," she says.

Moulds that a porcelain mix could be poured into made the process easier, allowing Coral to concentrate on the painting. Porcelain fish, flowers and then ducks became her porcelain specialties and for a few years everyone seemed to want a salmon pink duck flying on their wall, she says with a laugh.

These days she concentrates on two-dimensional paintings on canvas. Her earlier focus on colour and fun continues, though.

"To enjoy life you've got to be a bit mad."

This month a collection of her works is showing at the David Johnston Gallery on Queen St. It is her first exhibition, she says, but it might not be her last.

"I always have to do something. There's no way I can sit down and say: ‘Oh, I'm going to do nothing today'."

The Marlborough Express