JESS Jacobs was commissioned to do a series of just eight garden paintings, but it was a project that blossomed. The result is an exhibition of close to 30 works the artist will launch next week at wharfside venue Marine View. And the title of the show clearly pinpoints from whence her inspiration came. Most works in the Tiromoana: The Professor's Garden installation are based on photographs Jacobs took at the Wainui hilltop garden established by Professor Jack Richards.
There is already an other-worldly type feel to many of the brilliantly-coloured works, largely because of the tropical imagery - inspired by the artist's links to Samoa - represented within. "Plus there are lots of sculptural pieces in the garden and that adds a sense of surrealism," Jacobs says from her inner-city studio. By permission of the owner, the original commissioned works - an eight-piece document depicting a wander through the garden - will be made available in a series of limited edition prints, all richly inked on canvas. There are also around another dozen pieces in the garden series, as well as a quartet of diminutive bird paintings, each tiny figure set against a dramatic black background.
Possibly the most dominant pieces, though, will be the two folding room dividers Jacobs has completed in time for the exhibition. One, Sacred, invokes a retro feel with its native birds upon spindly branches, all against a backdrop of brilliant green. And on the reverse of the four panels she has etched in gold text, exploring the place of humans on the earth and their obligations to it.
The other divider, Colonisation, is an ode to Samoa, to which Jacobs has both artistic and ancestral links. In gold paint against a black background, the front panels show a colonial ship putting in at a Samoan harbour. On the reverse, there are iconic images of contemporary Samoa - monolithic churches, baskets, produce, wildlife and the country's exploding fl ora. "I really liked the idea of presenting my art in a form that can be used in a practical way," Jacobs said of the room dividers. "It is just another way of getting the images and messages across."