Stories from Te Auaunga Oakley Creek

By Alesha Arrowsmith

November 24, 2022

“Noticing, regeneration and wonder” are three words Auckland artist Xin Cheng thinks best describe her body of work Stories from Te Auaunga Oakley Creek.

Cheng was a guest artist during the recent Aotearoa Art Fair during which her work was displayed at the Yu Mei Lounge in Commercial Bay, Auckland as part of
, a non-profit, curated exhibition designed to showcase the diversity of contemporary practitioners working across Aotearoa and the Pacific.

Her works are influenced by the dynamic ecosystem of the waterway expressed through sculptures, printed images and audio.

Oakley Creek runs from Hillsborough, Auckland to the Waitemata harbour and is one of Auckland’s largest urban rivers.

Cheng’s curiosity was sparked in 2020 when she noticed a concrete trough carrying a stream of water at Keith Hay Park in the Auckland suburban setting.

She used a marble print technique, placing paper into water and using the scum from the surface to create her designs. She carefully carried the wet pieces of paper and waited until they were dry to print and enlarge them. The sculptures are made from the weeds in the area and are mixed with her old ecology notes from her studies. The exhibit also featured sound from the creek.

“For me it’s about opening up our perception to this other, more than human world that we live amongst, using art as a way of redirecting attention and experiencing our surroundings in a new way,” says Cheng.

Throughout the process, Cheng became interested in the wider ecology of the creek. She has visited and documented the waterway, as well as volunteering with Friends of Oakley Creek, a volunteer-based community group that work on restoring the creek to its full ecological potential.

Yu Mei founder Jessie Wong says that for her brand it is really important to support artists and their practice.

Artist Xin Cheng with Yu Mei founder Jessie Wong.

“It’s been an honour to attend and be a part of the Aotearoa art fair for the past couple of years. It’s always one of my favourite events of the year, we get to learn about new ideas and practices and artists and what they do,” says Wong.

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