Anna Leyland is a contemporary New Zealand artist and the creator of “Sentient Beings of the Sea” tail located at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Combining pattern making and symbolism, Anna’s works invoke conversations relating to the celebration of diversity and multiculturalism within Aotearoa—a hallmark of New Zealand’s social ethos. Anna’s art has been displayed in more than 30 exhibitions since 2001, and in the last four years she has held two solo shows at Allpress Studio, Auckland. Her unique, distinctive style has seen many corporate companies commission work including Nespresso, The Auckland City Council, Orcon, The Big Hoot and Sofitel Queenstown. Articles and Interviews about her work have featured in the New Zealand Herald’s VIVA, Remix, Denizen, Idealog and Habitat by Resene.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Anna to learn more about her work as an artist, and her experience with Whales Tales 2022.
What was your inspiration behind your whale tail design?
I have used one of my patterns from my painting ‘Sentience’ as my design for my Whale Tale.
Something sentient is able to feel things, or sense them. The word ‘sentient’ comes from the Latin word for ‘feeling’, and it describes things that are alive, able to feel and perceive, and show awareness or responsiveness. Having senses makes something sentient, or able to smell, communicate, touch, see, or hear.
In my design, the many shades of gold are associated with illumination, love, compassion and courage. The Koru features within many of my works to represent my respect and love for our Indigenous Māori people, their culture and my home, Aotearoa. The triangles, a recurring symbol across all of my works, also represent courage and direction and are a prominent symbol used in Fijian tapa (simplified shark teeth) representing protection, guidance and strength.
Can you give us some background on your training as an artist?
I have been an artist for as long as I remember; according to my mum, I had a brush in hand by the age of two! I have always been creative and continued right through school studying art and design. In regards to being a painter, I am primarily self-taught.
I completed a Bachelor of Design Degree in Visual Communication at Unitec in 1999, but always continued to paint and started exhibiting my work around 2001. Up until 10 years ago, I was a portrait artist. After working as a graphic designer for a decade, then teaching secondary school art and design for a few years, I decided it was the right time to pursue my dream of being a full-time artist. In 2011, I took the plunge and have been fortunate enough to be successful with my new career path and my entirely new style since.
I now have work in eight galleries throughout New Zealand and in public and private collections across the world. I have always been drawn to pattern and symbolism and wanted to create something new that I could always be inspired and challenged by. This new body of work has also been influenced by my background as a designer and I have found a way to combine both of my passions.
What about your personal life?
I come from a large family with Scottish, Hungarian and English heritage. After much of my family has taken turns living in the UK over the last 20 years, we are all now back in New Zealand, where most of us live in Auckland. I have a son (15) who is also part Fijian, Wallisian and Futunnan. My work celebrates my families multiculturalism and diversity which is also a reflection of Aotearoa—we are blessed to be living in such a beautiful country full of such rich and diverse cultures and backgrounds.
What stye of art do you usually produce? What are your traditional methods of working?
I create large acrylic paintings working on either canvas or board, however some of my commissions over the years have included using coffee pods (for Nespresso Boutique) and a Grand Piano (for Sofitel Queenstown). I also create limited edition prints of some of my paintings; it has always been very important to me that my art is accessible to everyone. In the last year I have also created a jewellery line that also stem straight from the designs in my paintings.
What is your inspiration as an artist in general?
Life! People, culture, nature, art, design, travel… I have always loved looking at what makes people unique, especially when I was painting portraits for so long. Everyone has certain characteristics, natures, histories, genealogies, perceptions, morals, beliefs and cultures which them makes them unique. My works are a direct reflection of my perception of life.
I choose to see the beauty in everything around me; specifically, the beautiful mix of cultures we have in Aotearoa and all the different life experiences, talent, and inspiration that this brings to one’s existence. I incorporate this into all my works through pattern and symbolism.
What are you most proud of about your tail design?
It is distinctive of my style. Although it is challenging to translate designs from a flat painting to a very large sculpture, I hope I can do it justice and bring some golden light and positive energy to someone’s home and raise some money for a worthy cause!
What are you most excited for during the Whales Tales 2022 Campaign?
I love seeing the excitement in people’s faces when they come across these beautiful, giant art sculptures scattered around the city! They really do bring so much joy and awareness to such great causes, hence why these sculpture trails have been so successful all over the world.
What is your favourite thing to do in Parnell and why?
I have always loved walking my dog through the Rose Gardens in Parnell. You can see the ocean and smell the beautiful flowers. Both of these things always remind me of my grandparents, so it is somewhere special I love to go.
Parnell has also always been famous for having some of the best galleries in Auckland and I am fortunate to be represented by Black Door Gallery on Parnell Rise. It is a suburb of culture and creativity! I feel honoured see my whale tail glistening in Parnell over the summer!
Sponsor: Ray White Parnell
Ray White Parnell is based in the heart of the Parnell community which is one of Auckland’s historic boutique suburbs. Ray White Parnell is a team of dedicated professionals who understand this unique market and are experienced in all residential and investment property types – whether it’s a family home, landmark property, city lifestyle, or investment. Ray White Parnell is proud to support the Whale Tales initiative celebrating New Zealand, Art, and marine conservation protecting and restoring the mauri of our ocean.
WHALE TAIL DAMAGE
Each Whale Tail is a work of art, and deserves to be admired and appreciated as such. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that everyone will treat the Whale Tails with respect. If you come across a damaged Tail, please text the Tail name, location and a brief description of the damage to 022 042 9074.