Kate MacKenzie’s portrait of Jacinda Ardern, titled “Lockdown in Paradise”, captures a moment in time when our relatively untested Prime Minister stepped up to manage the Covid-19 epidemic crisis.
The story goes back to over a year before, when Kate painted the original likeness of Jacinda Ardern while exploring the concept of the korowai cloak as a uniquely NZ mantle. “Normally I paint fictitious portraits but I wanted to create a true portrait, so I chose Jacinda, but it didn’t feel finished,” says Kate. “Somehow it was unresolved so I set it aside for another day.”
Those who are familiar with MacKenzie’s work will know her signature genre is surrealist symbolism – usually a female head and torso linked to imagery that tells the narrative of the painting. “So the painting sat there in my studio for 14 months. I was struggling with the meaning behind it, I didn’t quite know what message I wanted to portray, perhaps because I didn’t feel I knew her enough as a prime minister, a work in progress and her defining moment hadn’t quite evolved.”
On the first day of lockdown Kate went for a walk. “It was so quiet and peaceful, I thought of her and that everyone was listening to her. It came to me just how amazing she is in a crisis and it was then I had an epiphany – to make Jacinda’s portrait about the lockdown … this particular moment in time.”
Kate finished it the next day by adding a protective face mask to the buzzy bee, a phone with the date in her pocket and a bubble around one of the tui, “She invented the word ‘bubble’, it’s her kind of word and I think it’s exclusive to New Zealand’s stay-at-home message,” she says.
“As an artist I remind myself that it is a privilege to paint about history and I think we’ll be able to look back on this portrait and see something positive – that we have come to the other end if it.” The painting is not just about Jacinda, it is about all of us being in this together, Kate says.
Painting completed, MacKenzie created a Facebook post of the portrait offering print reproductions as a fundraiser, with an online registration process for buying a print. “It just grew legs, but I had the feeling it was just going to be something special.” It got a mention on ‘The Project’ TV3 during that week and people were registering their interest online.
Then a person who knew Jacinda’s parents saw the Facebook post and sent it to them. Laurel Ardern loved it and said that Jacinda had also seen it and she loved it too. The original has been purchased by a prominent New Zealand family who prefer to remain anonymous.
Kate MacKenzie’s “Lockdown in Paradise” print reproductions are a fundraiser
for I Am Hope NZ, a charity that provides counselling support for young people.
The fundraiser will continue until 27 May offering prints through Kate’s website www.katemackenzie.co.nz/prints. They are priced at $560 each including postage but not framing.