Artist of the Month: Caz Novak's brilliant, floral opulence

. December 22, 2020
Photography by Milla Novak.
Artist of the Month: Caz Novak's brilliant, floral opulence

If art is partly a journey, a process of moving and feeling your way towards an indistinct somewhere, an indefinable something, then you could say that Caz Novak has reached a kind of destination. Even if her urge to explore – as it no doubt will – sees her setting off again.

An artist for 22 years, she’s always been inspired by colour and texture, and by her natural surroundings. The inspiration for her Pacifica series was the beautiful Taranaki beach where she lives, and for her Lush collection, the nearby botanical gardens. However, it’s only more recently – with her Opulence series – that Caz says she has found her ‘home’.

With Opulence, the Wellington-born artist’s fascination with the way colours work together and respond to each other – and with nature-inspired themes – finds a looser, more abstract expression.

“The title of this series refers to the opulent use of thick impasto paint that is applied predominantly with a palette knife,” says Caz, a former primary school teacher who also ran art extension classes for children on weekends and during school holidays.

Opulence – Alhambra Gardens (1200mm x 1000mm impasto paint on board)

“There is a physicality to applying impasto paint, and I enjoy the beautiful sculptural qualities it produces. A recurring motif within this series is loose, painterly florals.”

Caz is naturally drawn to vibrant hues because “they are uplifting and bring their own energy to a space as completed paintings”. Her Pacifica paintings are gorgeous, vivid beachscapes bristling with nīkau and pōhutukawa, so evocative of a Kiwi summer that you can almost hear the surf. She didn’t need to look far for inspiration; the muses were sunning themselves right on her doorstep – the sand, the Tasman Sea and Caz’s own lush native garden. For these representative pieces, she begins with sketches and photos, which she then works into a balanced composition before planning the ‘colour story’ and starting to paint.

A different approach is required, however, for the pieces in Opulence – an abstract series that contains within it smaller collections with distinct themes. “Colour is generally the starting point and the paintings evolve organically on the easel.”

Caz counts the Fauvist movement, led by Henri Matisse, as a major influence – especially the way they applied colour directly from the tube “in a painterly manner”. Bursting with joyful energy, these are the sorts of works that would be gratifying to live with. The growing number of collectors of Caz’s work would agree. What’s more, a delightful surprise awaits them when they unpack their prize. “I predominantly sell my works through my website, so it’s wonderful to get the feedback from buyers, after they have opened the art crate and hung their new painting on the wall, that they love it more in the flesh,” says Caz.

“This is the beauty of impasto works; the texture is such a special feature, which is not fully translated on a computer screen.”

Caz, too, occasionally comes under the spell of her own work. “Some paintings have become part of my own collection as I couldn’t part with them! There is something to be said for art making a house a home – they help build a unique reflection of your personal aesthetic.”

While Caz has found her ‘home’ in her current Opulence series, the very act of painting points her to new paths, urges her to probe fresh territory. “Colour inspires me. My work is constantly evolving through my exploration of paint; it is an exciting medium which presents unlimited potential for development.”

Caz Novak