'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Cockroach in my Art

Black NZ Cockroach

There is an innocuous native New Zealand cockroach. It lives outside, rarely comes indoors, and then only if you transport it, say in firewood. It is more rounded than the German (Blatella germanica) or American (Periplaneta americana ) or Australian/ Gisborne (Drymaplaneta semivitta) roaches.
It's a lovely dark black, can't fly, has shortish antennae, eats decaying plant material and its only shortcoming from a human perspective, is that it can make an unpleasant smell if scared. Its common name is, rather unimaginatively, Black Cockroach. Its latin name is much more interesting: Platyzosteria novaeseelandiae.

I have been painting them. En masse. I'm not sure how successful the works are. I blue-tacked them to the wall to try them out. They aren't especially scary. Nor are they especially beautiful, although there is a certain pleasing designerly quality I suppose.....

But what I'm getting around to saying it that I painted one individual near the lounge door. And, even though I know I was the one who put it there, and it was made with a potato stamp so the legs are too fat, the feelers are black acrylic, felt-pen, and is very much two-dimensional, it still makes me give a little jump of alarm every single time I walk through the door! Weird.

Information about NZ cockroaches from Landcare Research


  1. Okay, now you are definitely weird! :}

  2. Good. But in a nice way, I hope?

  3. Follow up comment 7 years later. It took me about three (3!) years before I stopped reacting, or, finally, even noticing it. There is clearly something VERY built-in to us regarding the cockroach-shape. It was painted over about four years ago.


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