Jacqueline Fahey - artist and writer

Updated at 2:37 pm on 26 May 2015

Originally aired on Nine To Noon, Wednesday 1 August 2012

Kathryn Ryan talks to Jacqueline Fahey's about her memoir, Before I Forget, which delves into her life after her marriage to psychiatrist Fraser McDonald and becoming an artist and name in her own right.


In Memoriam, 1969. Mum and myself at the time of my father’s death. The wintery feel to this painting, the bleak landscape outside and the unmade bed all add to the sense of grief.

Georgie Pies, 1973/77. There are good portraits here of Augusta, Nick Town (the photographer who took the photos of me in the living room) and Alex. My new diet choice is bacon and eggs. Fraser in in the background is watering the garden. The yellow hose integrates the background and the foreground – and those colourful Georgie Pie packets are so reminiscent of late 1970s and 1980s New Zealand.

Fraser Analyses My Words, 1977 (Collection of University of Auckland Medical School). It can be hazardous for couples to have a drink together before dinner. Here I depict myself suffering the illusion that my words are momentarily transformed, by booze, into jewel-like, iridescent little creatures. Fraser selects one for scrutiny; but he is also preoccupied with his own balancing act at the hospital and hoping for soothing moments of release, not stimulating discourse. The roses and the bottle on the table recall the days of wine and roses; the large dragonfly perched on the rim of the cocktail glass suggests the dangers inherent in alcohol. The card on the mantelshelf, sent from Rome by my friend Eric McCormick, is of a proud matron of ancient Rome. She is my alter ego – but I often fail to reach her standards.

Me Teaching, 1992. Clytemnestra, assisted by her black nurse, murders Agamemnon in the bath. As an indicator I have a lot to say here, backing up what I raved on about in the life class about the very ancient history of women’s struggle for recognition.

Effervescence, 2009. In the face of the romantic bilge fed to young women, I here suggest that passion is an irrational delirium visited on humans to keep the race going. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream gloriously illustrates this point. The hydrangea bushes are emblematic of mental hospitals, indicating where I am coming from. ‘I can hardly remember what I was on about,’ I proclaim. Also written into the painting are the words of a song I used to sing while bicycling through Cathedral Square on the back of Bruce Rennie’s bike – ‘Just One of Those Things’. In some ways we never change.

Work by artist and writer Jacqueline Fahey