Heroes & Icons

We have created an online resource featuring significant New Zealand artists who have an affiliation with Central Otago. Read these artists contributions to find out a little bit about what inspires them and how they have forged a career in the arts. This page will be updated regularly with more stories and useful links for the young and old.

Gregory O Brien

  • Gregory O Brien

When I contemplate my childhood and teenage years, it becomes abundantly clear that I was always going to end up working in the fields of both writing and visual arts. As a boy, I relished the melding of verbal and visual in comics. A Catholic upbringing probably, on another level, provided an experience of the interconnectedness of all the arts through the ritual of the Mass- with its music, words, visuals (two and three dimensional), scents and texture, its architecture and its acoustics. Between comic books and the traditional Mass- with its polyphony and Gregorian chants- I locate my creative beginnings.

The books I was first drawn to were often illustrated, or included drawings, maps and other diagrams. Maps were an important influence: I still love the way tey contain both written signage and coded visual representation). Amoung my favourite reading, from about 10 years onwards, were the Ronald Searle books, Tove Jansson's "Moomintroll' series, Tolkein's Lord of the Rings then, a little later, Mervyn Peake's 'Gormenghast' Trilogy and Flann O Brien's The Poor Mouth (illustrated by Ralph Steadman). All these books incorporated pictures and words (with some maps also).

Jenny Bornholdt

  • Jenny Bornholdt

Reading was what got Jenny Bornholdt started as a writer. "Writing was the way I found out about the world,"she said. Reading also made her alert to the sounds of language and the different ways it can work. Having really good English teachers helped too - people who loved books and were very enthusiastic about what they were teaching. She first discovered poetry at school and remembers the excitement of reading Hone Tuwhare's poem 'No Ordinary Sun'.

When she left school, Jenny became a journalist. She wanted to write and journalism seemed the only job that would let you do that. After working for a couple of years she went to Victoria University, where she studied English Literature, Drama and Film. As part of her degree, she did a course in creative writing. This meant reading a lot, writing a lot, and talking about writing a lot. It was very intense and hugely interesting and exciting. After finishing university she decided that writing poetry was what she most wanted to do and she's done that ever since.