Thirteen artists explore the cultural, conceptual and imaginative qualities of the rivers, lakes, wetlands and freshwater systems of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Water\Way exhibition at Aratoi 13 April – 4 August, 2019

Introduction to Water\Way

Event: Artist talks at Aratoi, Sunday May 26, 10.30am

The Water Project exhibition at Ashburton Art Gallery 2018

EyeContact exhibition review by Warren Feeney


Conversation with a mid-Canterbury braided river

Gregory O'Brien

‘Fifteen apparitions have I seen;
The worst a coat upon a coat-hanger’
(W. B. Yeats, ‘The Apparitions’)


Moved, as I am
immovable, like you

I turn over, I sleep
on my side

nestled in the
watery fact

of you. I fall about, collect
my thoughts—

another thing we have
in common—I get ahead

of myself, I meander
so as not to

lose my way. I rock
and sway.

I digress. And this is how
I come back to you

bedded and besotted, body strewn
with inverted clouds

migratory birds, dawn-lit

Like you, I have
my sources; I wade

the long waters
of myself. My ear

to the ground or
the constant applause

of your rapids. You are your own
concert, open-air, a solitary leaf

crowd-surfing downstream
and the occasional

beercan thrown. Lately there has been
talk of you as

lapsed or recovering, dispersed
drained, interrupted or

resumed. And this
my sleepless night, my apparition:

an insect walking this land—
a coat-hanger on which might

hang a bright green shirt, a stream led down
a long avenue of hosepipe and

aluminium, a river flowing
sideways, its taniwha

reduced to a drizzle or fine mist
a trickle from

an automated tap. Your position on this too
is inarguable

as if argument was ever
a river’s way.

Braided, you tell me, I was
upbraided, scrambled across

siphoned and run ragged by hydro-trader, flood-
harvester, water bottler, irrigator

and resource manager. This riverbed is
my marae, the long legs of wading birds

my acupuncture, these waters
my only therapy.

On clear nights
galaxies enter me, planetary bodies

like swimmers. How many minds
a river has—caddis and mayfly

eyeless eel and
native trout. As an argument

this might not hold water
but neither does

a paddock gone around
in circles

or a skeletal arm endlessly
scrawling its initials in

a sodden green ledger. Whichever way
the river doesn’t flow

I remain undecided, as is
water’s way.

I disperse, lost for words
I dry up.

I had an apparition, an insect
walking this riverless land

earthbound stars
rattling, beyond reflection

along a dry
river’s bed.


SNOWFLAKE / Di Lucas / Lucas Associates / Landscape planning & design consultants

I AM WATER / Teoki Jardine / Kāi Tahu Takatatiaki for The Avon-Ōtākaro Network


Phil playing stones, Maraewhenua River, 0.5 min