Chinese gold-miners inspire art works

Arrowtown-based artist Jenny Mehrtens has marked the Chinese New Year with a series of paintings inspired by Chinese gold-miners who helped settle the Wakatipu 150 years ago.

The Year of the Horse will begin on Friday and Mrs Mehrtens said to mark the area's historical and growing links with China she had teamed up with Diamond, a Queenstown-based infant formula business selling directly to China, to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the pieces in her ''Chinese Miners Gold'' exhibition.

The range of largely fictitious characters had been painted in oil and set in front of a wall of ''gold leaf'' bricks representing the foundation and building blocks of the area, which grew largely as a result of the 1860s gold rush.

Mrs Mehrtens said several years ago she became interested in what it would have been like in Arrowtown during the gold rush with ''people as workhorses''.

''I researched photos and stories.

''The plight and look of the Chinese miners fascinated me, so far from home in such a tough and hostile environment.

''They played a significant role in the tough game of gold-mining and surviving in this area.

''I had to paint them to better get to know them.''

Mrs Mehrtens said the Chinese had brought ''colour and character'' to the region and made a contribution to the area's fabric ''despite some questionable treatment of them''.

''While painting my series, two words kept emerging: respect and resourcefulness.

''I have great admiration for the Chinese miners and have painted these images to mark their lasting contributions and presence in Central Otago.''

• The works are on display in the Diamond showroom, on Earl St, at the Dudley's Cottage Cafe in Arrowtown and at Provisions Cafe in Arrowtown.