Amelia Guild was raised on High Peaks, a high country station near Windwhistle in the upper Rakaia Gorge, North Canterbury. Although she left home for school and university, then lived overseas for some time, those hills and the country life called her back.
Amelia Guild is like her paintings; colourful, vibrant and filled with enthusiastic expression. Her subject matter demonstrates her love of farm animals from cattle to deer and faithful farm dogs.
In a time where lifestyle magazines romanticise farming lives, and environmentalists vilify farmers as polluters of our rivers, it is refreshing to come across the work of Amelia, who portrays a joy for country living and a love of the animals in her world. The work has no hidden message and the paintings are bold and colourful, showing an appreciation of the place in which she resides. She is, of course, concerned for the environment and its preservation, but that is not the object of her paintings. Painting, for her, is a passion and an outlet for her boundless creativity.
Rural and urban boundaries are blurred in these paintings. The subject matter is undoubtedly rural, but the colours seem more urban; reds, blues, and turquoise. Bold brush strokes laden with colour weave a tapestry where line and colour reveal either the dynamic nature of a herd of cattle, the contemplative gaze of an individual beast or the writhing body of an active dog. Amelia currently works with acrylic paints, as they are a less toxic medium now she has a toddler nearby. This has resulted in the need to work quickly, making her work looser and more expressive. These energetic works hang well in both rural and urban homes, as while they reference country life, it is in a way that all New Zealanders can identify with.
Amelia has had no formal art training, and has an alter ego as actor comedienne, Amelia Dunbar. Again, the subject matter is rural; dogs on heat, bitches in their box. The humour does not take social niceties into account, since dogs are not governed by the politically correct. Amelia and her colleagues take their comedy show on the road, visiting mainly rural woolshed venues in New Zealand. While their shows mostly serve to bring some light relief to the anxieties of country life, they’ve also been performed in major cities and at international festivals, again demonstrating the versatility of her work. Amelia uses different surnames as artist and actor, but the roles spill into the other. For instance, the titles given to her paintings provide clues to her comic self, as they include Marbled Thighs doingAquacise,They were all too familiar with that look and The Movers andShakers, not titles one would usually associate with farm animals.
Farming is now a business where value-added enterprises are not only encouraged, but are a necessity. As well as farming sheep, beef and deer, Amelia’s brothers run a tourist and ski-hosting business, and her husband is an apiarist, producing high-quality honey from mānuka and beech forest pollens. They all live together on the family property, enriching their lives where their talents lie. Amelia’s talents lie with her painting, and when she is not making art or looking after her young daughter, she finds time to perform. Everyone has many strings to their bow, and in the microcosm of a high country station enterprise, we encounter the complexities of millennial life. Tradition and family life is important, but diversification and innovation is essential to survive in the modern economy.
Amelia doesn’t take herself too seriously, and lets her personality shine through in all her work, whether it be painting or acting. The overall effect is wonderfully vibrant work that draws you into her world, one which celebrates rural life and the joy that animals can bring.
Amelia will be a guest artist at this year’s Art in a Garden at Flaxmere, near Hawarden in late October. As a daughter of North Canterbury, I am sure her work will be well-received.