• Jessica Crothall

Kahikatea, is a coniferous tree endemic to New Zealand. A podocarp, it is the tallest tree of Aotearoa, gaining heights of up to 60 metres over a life span of 600 years. These majestic trees thrive in heavy rainfall areas and grow well on swampy land. Formerly widespread throughout Aotearoa in lowland areas, there are particularly magnificent stands remaining in South Westland, near Haast, on the West Coast of the South Island, Te Wai Pounamu.

In her latest series of paintings, Jessica Crothall moves away from earlier techniques to better respond to the Kahikatea rain forest. In reference to the way fungal plants and moss hang from the Kahikatea branches, Crothall adopts a dripping approach in applying the watered-down acrylic paints, similar to the way one might use Indian or Japanese inks. In this process, water is also generously poured on to the canvases, and various versions of the scenes are painted to capture the essence of a typical rainforest with heavy downpours.

Interestingly, Kahikatea can support entire ecosystems on their trunks and branches. A scientist once found 28 different plants living on one tree – lianas (twining and climbing plants like supplejack, kiekie and our native passionfruit and native jasmine). Kahikatea trees also manage to stand upright in the soft wet soils by intertwining their roots. For Māori, this unique growth pattern is seen as a symbol of strength in unity. Crothall’s paintings respond to this concept, reflecting on our current times of increasing extreme weather events, cyclones, storms, and heavy rainfalls, how important it is that we are there for one another. As the Kahikatea, we cannot stand alone, we need the presence of others to sustain us and hold each other up.

Born in South Canterbury near Waimate, Jessica grew up on a sheep and cropping farm and attended high school in Timaru where she had Gypsy Poulston as her art teacher. She attended canterbury school of Fine arts and graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts in 1976. While she specialised in printmaking, she soon shifted to painting as her primary medium of expression. Jessica lives and works from her Dunedin home and has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday to Friday, 11:00am – 5:00pm
  • Saturday, 11:00am – 2:00pm
  • Or viewing by appointment


  • Level 1
  • 284 Trafalgar Street
  • Nelson, 7010