Fiona Van Oyen, an emerging Christchurch artist, recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts with Distinction from the Dunedin School of Art in 2017. Fiona originally studied at the School of Fine Art (SoFA) at Canterbury and has had two exhibitions at The Central; ‘Landskin’ (2017) and ‘Navigation Lines’ (2019).


She is formally trained in print making, using lino and woodcuts to produce her works. Van Oyen's eye for precision also allows her to handcut sheets of cotton paper, creating works either framed, floated or suspended resembling the silhouette of perhaps a fruit tree from the 'red-zone' or the retracing of space and place. 


Her show ‘Landskin’ comprised of a body of work made throughout the last year of her Masters study. Whilst the initial imagery is drawn from Christchurch landscapes, the breaking down of elements and the mapping of these at scale transforms the reading of these works from a physical place to a psychological exploration of our perception of self in the context of place. 


In Van Oyen’s show ‘Navigation Lines’ at The Central in early 2019, line is the tool Van Oyen uses to reacquaint herself with home and place, referring to the strong linear element in the work. With the Christchurch cityscape stripped of many of the landmarks that were navigational aids prior to the earthquakes, Van Oyen focuses attention back onto the natural forms in her home town – the skyscapes, landscapes and botanicals she sees as the new markers or identifiers of place.  


Beginning with drawn line on paper, the materials used in the final artworks transform the original drawn line into something more physical. Line is now formed by pushing a carving tool through lino to emboss paper, by outlining a shape with a paintbrush, or by cutting a line with a scalpel into paper. All of these have the potential to activate the physical haptic.


The surface tactility in many of these works is important. Shimmer against a certain chalkiness of paint, and paper pressed flat against plumped up embossed forms are used to create tactile surfaces in the works. These, combined with colour combinations that have been carefully considered, have the potential to trigger the sensation of touch without touching. This is the physical haptic.


Dr. Warren Feeney states that it is “A series of cotton paper works from an artist who has comprehensively claimed the territory of her materials of choice, occupying centre stage in The Central Art Gallery space with an orchestrated presence that was anticipated, yet in seeing and experiencing - still a surprise.” (ArtBeat: Fiona van Oyen, Navigation Line at The Central Art Gallery).