• Mary Spacapan
  • Erin O’Malley

Mary Spacapan and Erin O’Malley each bring to the gallery a beautiful body of abstract paintings in this two-person show. Both approach paint intuitively, responding to the mark, colour, and the visceral nature of their medium, while simultaneously exploring their own personal thematic. Their work is emotive, resonant, and engaging, paintings with subtle force, inviting us to ‘feel into’ the work, to participate in their offering.

In her ongoing exploration of the animated nature of the whenua, Mary Spacapan’s new work seeks to understand mark making as a visual expression of sound. Sound, transports energy from one location to another, without transporting matter. Since sound waves carry a tiny negative mass, when in the presence of a gravitational field their trajectory bends upwards. With her ear to the ground, postured in the way of her tūpuna, ancestral wisdom hums forth a heartbeat from the whenua. In reflection of mutuality, fellow indigenous North American, Robin Wall Kimmerer in Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, writes, ‘Isn’t this the way we love, the way love propels our own unfolding? We are shaped by our affinity for love, expanded by its presence and shrunken by its lack.’

For O’Malley, the ritual of adornment is a process of hiding and revealing. Like the beads threaded together in a tribal amulet, worn around the neck for protection, what parts of our internal selves do we weave together each day and adorn ourselves with to appear as we would like to be seen? Like the age-old adage of ‘wearing one’s heart on a sleeve’, we make daily subconscious decisions about what emotions, aspects of our personality, parts of our interior person we are happy to reveal or need to keep hidden for the interactions ahead. Each circle of colour, some roughly hewn, others carefully polished and shaped from many years of use, each bauble of projected self, sits alongside or is woven into a protecting talisman. It is fragile, dislocated in parts, revealing holes through which our hidden self can unexpectedly appear. Often the weight of this process can be hard to hold reminding us of the importance of finding people and places where we can comfortably let go of the knotted threads, and be fully present, truly aligned – the external and internal self no longer requiring the ‘other.’ We are unmasked and unadorned.

Mary Spacapan

Born to US-Canadian [Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, Mohawk] parents, Mary first immigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand when she was six years old. She returned to the United States with her family, where she later completed a BFA from Columbia University, Chicago. Later migrating to California — and finally home to Aotearoa.

E mihi ana ia ki ngā mana whenua. Mary believes it right to acknowledge her place in Aotearoa is upheld by her commitment to te Tiriti o Waitangi and sustained through the friendship of many.

Sheltered by maunga Taranaki, Mary operates alongside local and national peacemakers around matters of reconciliation. Her work carefully considers the role and responsibility of the ‘witness,’ and explores what it means to invoke memory, serve, and tend to the dynamic nature of the whenua, both land and body, with generational vision.

Erin O’Malley

Erin O’Malley (b.1969 – New Zealand) is a painter who, using colour, texture and shape seeks to capture some of the concealed beauty of what it means to be human. Her emotional landscapes explore shared hopes & fears, a sense of place & self, captured moments in Ime, held in brush stroke on the canvas. Her work looks at a reality beyond the observable physical world and attempts to hold onto and record the unseen internal spaces we navigate daily.

Erin believes wholly in the action of painting, the process & journey and direction of the marks she makes. It all begins from an idea, a feeling, a word – it is then followed through with paint to its desired end.

Erin has a BA & Teaching Diploma in English and Education UoA (Auckland New Zealand) 1991 and a Diploma in Painting ISCD (Sydney Australia) 1999.

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