Louise McRae

Louise McRae, Kodama, The Spirit of a tree, 2022

0.7mm thick beaten and riveted brass sheet, marine grade sealant, webbing

As in many of Aotearoa’s northern coastal areas, in early summer, the lush green of Waiheke’s vegetation becomes inflamed by the crimson flowers of the pōhutukawa tree. Louise McRae offers a homage to the tree with Kodama, The spirit of a tree. In Japanese folklore, Kodama are tree spirits that dwell in forests. They inhabit the oldest trees, and their presence is recognised by many as a sign of an ecosystem’s health. Emerging scientific studies on the interconnection of tree root systems and fungal networks, and this as the basis of soil health, provide an analogue to this ancient knowledge and further reason to value these elders of the natural world.

“It thrives where others cannot,” the artist says, “It stands with its roots in rock, facing all the Pacific can throw at it. I pay homage through this work and hope to lure others, to stop, to see, to celebrate this tree.”


Born Kaipara Harbour. Lives and works in Pakiri.

Louise McRae started her artistic career as a largely self-taught painter, evolving into a practice of wall-based assemblages combining the materiality of paint with discarded materials collected around her rural home. The titles of the works from this period are telling: ‘Pollinate’ and ‘Germinate’ are apposite descriptions of the compositions, which seem to capture moments of rupture from which new energy springs forth.

In 2014 McRae began studying toward her MFA at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design. She shifted her attention to sculpture and the new perspective on materials offered her by the three-dimensional form. This has remained her focus since she completed the qualification in 2016, most recently via the project ‘Un-monument’, which looks at the memorial and nationalist functions of the public sculpture, which she attempts to undo with her own works’ clumsy forms and exuberant colours.