The Horses Stayed Behind: the work of Cat Auburn


ARTbop contributor, writer and photographer Lee Switzer comments on the recently closed, emotionally moving, exhibition of the work of Cat Auburn at the Tauranga Art Gallery: The Horses Stayed Behind.

Multivisceral artist Cat Auburn born Kiwi now living in England, works in video, sculpture and immediacy. She transcribes fleeting emotions into a visuality that remains with the viewer days or longer after leaving the art venue.

This art work, completed in 2015, The Horses Stayed Behind, is composed of 500 horse hair rosettes from 500 NZ horses and ponies. Traditionally, Victorian hair wreaths or rosettes represented a deceased person, or often, a particular event causing the hair to be removed and placed in jewellery.

The rosettes reach across nearly 5 metres. The artist said it is important to make the presentation horizontal so the viewer can be up close, providing a relational experience to the horses, rosettes, history.

New Zealand sent 10,000 horses overseas during WWI. Only 4 – 1 named Bess – returned. As a tribute to this equine support, Auburn spent a year collecting and weaving the rosettes with the help of Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery curator Sarah McClintock (now at Suter Art Gallery, Nelson.) Each horse that provided strands of hair is documented with a description and other details. In one interview, the artist said many stories came in the post with the hair, including pony hair that was a favourite of a child who died.

Integrated into the exhibition is an oud. The oud predates the lute that has frets. The oud was specially constructed for the Auburn exhibition by Steve Evans who left New Zealand, moving to the UK in 2013. Tim Barrie travelled to Tauranga from Wellington to entertain the gallery audience.

Tim Barrie compares his oud, made in Greece, to the newly minted Steve Evans oud.


Surprise and admiration at the interwoven pieces.

 Cat Auburn page.

Cat Auburn shows how to make the rosettes.

Find more background on the project and short history of the WWI 10,000 horses here.

Bess is one of the only 4 horses returned to New Zealand. She is immortalised in the Bulls museum

Steve Evans explains how the oud was constructed.

During 2015, Tauranga Libraries’ Stephanie Smith developed Threads of Memory. Local residents visited the library to discuss a relative involved in WWI. Writer Susan Brocker, talked about her grandfather Thomas McGee who was in the Wellington Mounted Rifles. As a child Susan had seen a photograph of him wearing a soldier’s hat with an emblem of a horse on the front. It was only later in life that she learned more about his WWI activities and the horses sent to war.

Brocker has written a number of books including Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses, and 1914: Riding into War. The interview was filmed by Windermere (now Toi Ohomai) students. Video interview with Susan Brocker.

Lee Switzer  Text and images by Lee Switzer a regular contributor to ARTbop. You can find examples of Lee’s photography and images, poetry, short stories, event and exhibition reviews and book reviews in the ARTbop archives. Lee is also a long-time contributor to the archives of the  Tauranga kete managed by the Tauranga City Library

You will particularly enjoy Switzer’s recent text and image-rich contribution on the installation by artist Emma Prill currently showing at the Tauranga Art Gallery

How Does Your Garden Grow? The Colourful Work Of Emma Prill.

ARTbop promotes

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The next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair will be on Sunday 27th January 2019.  The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Cafe & Restaurant complex on the last Sunday of every month (earlier in December) 11am to 3pm.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music. There’s an event prize you can win.   If you would like to join them as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity or artisan products you can contact them at

 The Fair is sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road.  You won’t be able to miss it!  Indoors over winter months and outside in the Summer. 

Travelling down SH2 towards Tauranga check out the thriving arts scene in Kati Kati.


The Carlton Gallery at The Arts Junction

You’ll also want to check out The Historic Village at 17th Avenue with its increasing boutique shops, galleries and The Incubator Creative Hub

Check out what’s inside the People’s Gallery

Toymakers to the nation: The Men’s Shed


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