Black dogs help beat dark days

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 08:32 10/06/2014
dog
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ
Taranaki artist Deborah French with her mixed media exhibit piece titled 'Hunting as a pack'.

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Deborah French's artwork is a story of conquering depression and coming to grips with ageing.

French's work, Hunting as a Pack, features eight black dogs of varying sizes made from clay and adorned with trinkets, such as old medals, she found from opportunity shops.

She is among the 94 artists selected to exhibit their art at the Home Work: Taranaki Art Now exhibition held at Puke Ariki until August 24.

The exhibition aims to showcase the region's "vibrant art scene" and also puts the spotlight on "our creative people, our places, our issues and identity".

French said there was "quite a personal significance" around the dogs.

She had battled with depression "on and off'." Sir Winston Churchill had referred to his gloomy days as the "black dog".

That was how French's set of eight black dogs were born.

She initially made seven but it did not "feel complete" so added an eighth.

Dogs were such "faithful and loyal" animals, French said. "They look after each other in a pack and they look after each other's back," she said.

It took her about six months to complete the dogs and creating them helped her "think through things" like ageing.

It was also in itself a healing process as she worked her way through depression.

French is a dog lover herself and owns a black huntaway- border collie cross named Jess.

The Highlands Intermediate visual arts teacher is no stranger to the art scene and over the past 15 years has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the country.

Hundreds of guests were at Puke Ariki on the exhibition's opening night on Friday. Oakura Arts Trail organiser Jeff Salisbury was among the visitors out for an evening of admiring artworks.

Salisbury said the exhibition was fantastic as it showcased the talent of Taranaki artists for everyone to see all "in one place".

"It's such a fantastic thing," he said.

Around 460 entries from over 200 artists were submitted for the exhibition.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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