My father loved the beach almost as much as us kids. Growing up in the 60's, some of my favourite family moments were spent at Riversdale Beach. It was a magical place then, and I still think this small east coast settlement remains the world’s best kept secret (and long may that continue).
Each summer Mum and Dad would pack up the car, five kids and enough food to keep us going for a couple of weeks. Part of Dad’s Greek heritage was a love of food and sharing it with family and friends. Beach life fuels the appetite and after a long day of swimming, building life-sized sandcastle cars, searching for sea life down amongst the rock pools, all in the company of my brothers, sisters, and some of the local kids; we used to return home anticipating the great meals my parents prepared.
Concocting these meals can’t have been easy in what was such an isolated place back then. The local store supplied a few basic items, and some plumbing was almost non-existent. Back in those days the bach had a semi long-drop which required emptying frequently. I can still remember watching my father having to endure the responsibility of this chore. I was standing at the window looking out with my mother, who was laughing loudly, humoured by Dad’s battle with a very full load. Mum had dealt with years of nappies without his help and now he had to deal with a more youthful version of waste product, it was not for the faint hearted. I recall that we missed a year or two at the beach and I have since wondered if Dad may have deferred it until the bach owners installed a flush toilet.
Aside from the plumbing, the bach had a view of the sea and mountainous sand dunes where we fought wars, went on crusades, played hide and seek, raced up and down, or just sought solace from the raucous family life of seven people.
Of course the main reason we went there was motivated by Dad’s love of the sea. He was a strong swimmer and we always used to go beyond the breakers. I felt invincible as long as he was a short distance away.
Years later at Tairua, I realised he wasn’t invincible himself. A freak wave dumped him on his head and he was temporarily paralysed from the neck down. There were no MRI scans in those days, so it took two weeks before we knew if he would ever walk again. Fiercely determined, he did walk again, but never really fully recovered to his former self.
Still, his love of the sea remained, a legacy he passed onto all of us and indeed to the next generation. Spending time with his grandchildren at the beach was one of his greatest pleasures.
I never dreamed that my husband and I would end up living here as permanent residents, especially after fifteen years farming thoroughbreds south of Auckland. I think of my father a lot out here. I’m not so good at swimming out beyond the breakers now, and prefer to feel the security of sand beneath my feet.
I think David’s Riversdale paintings capture my father’s love of this beach. For me it’s where ‘life meets art’. The Knowles family are our family and we were able to share with them this first summer at our 1960’s-built bach (complete with two flush toilets!!).
David’s love for painting New Zealand is evident in these landscapes, capturing the land, sea and clouds which encapsulate the essence of Riversdale beach. He’s a prolific painter. When I viewed his latest series of paintings, I knew we should display them in the place where they began - Riversdale. While pretty simple, our garage is now a gallery. Not quite the Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington, but for these paintings it’s more natural. The added blessing for us has been meeting many visitors and locals who have popped in for a viewing. Our visitor’s book is filled with compliments about the art on display.
When we lived in Auckland, we were surrounded by wonderful beaches and yet our lives were so frenetic, we couldn’t enjoy them on a daily basis. That's when I commissioned David to paint me a beach scene that reminded me of those family holidays when I was young. “My beach" painting became a living force for me on a daily basis. With the painting positioned where I could view it every day, I could almost smell the sea. I still have that painting on my wall, but now I’m fortunate enough to live it.
I am so grateful that I can experience this place again, every day. I walk down the beach most days with my dog and I am in awe of the scenery that surrounds me and that fact that life’s events have brought me back here, where I used to swim out beyond the breakers with my Dad.
Oil on Canvas 710cm X 560cm