New York Master Artist Favours New Zealand

‘Master Artist’ for New York’s top designers, Christopher Roch has settled in New Zealand, finding new inspiration amongst our native plants and trees.

From a small village in Wales, Roch’s childhood was surrounded by beautiful gardens. His Father was the gardener for a grand manor house, and he recalls his Mother Iris constantly planting meadows of wildflowers around his home. A love of nature and plant life flourished and endured throughout Christopher’s life, career and artwork.

Roch studied Illustration at the University of the Arts London (Camberwell) where he practised techniques in pen and ink, watercolours, etching, silkscreen, and lithographic printmaking. He then gained his M.A. in Printed Textiles from the Royal College of Art, and soon after collaborated with fashion designers and printmakers in London.  In 1994 he followed his dream to live in New York City, and later Los Angeles and San Francisco.  He worked as a concept designer, artist and illustrator for some of the world’s biggest fashion houses such as Guess, Emanuel Ungaro, Liberty London, Loft, and Limited Express, among others. He later designed homeware for West Elm and Pottery Barn. 

Roch found New York City itself exciting and a great reference for imagery, but soon found

international designer brands spared no expense in the search for new ideas. He was regularly flown around the world for ‘Inspiration Trips’ from the bustling streets of Hong Kong or Shanghai, to grand palaces in India, spice markets in Marrakesh and textile fairs in Paris as well as endless museums across Europe. 

 Fabrics, Faberge eggs and antiques were among the many influences, but none more so than the flowers and foliage he encountered throughout his journeys. As a design director for Guess, he frequently travelled between Los Angeles. and Florence to develop concepts and colour palettes for new lines.  Roch made a discipline of carrying a small sketchbook, pen and watercolours to capture painted memoirs, many making their way into numerous patterns and designs.

Several years in San Francisco gave Roch the chance to focus solely on painting, where he

was given an art studio and the title of ‘Master Artist’ for the luxury homewares company Williams- Sonoma.  

Roch married his New Zealand-born partner, and three years ago made the decision to leave big city life and settle in West Auckland. He said it wasn’t too difficult to take the leap.

“I was really drawn by the drama of the magnificent landscapes and the diversity and uniqueness of the flora and fauna in New Zealand,” said Roch.

In his exhibition ‘Marigolds amongst the Ferns’, Roch has created large-scale paintings

based on his impressionist sketchbook style. These paintings are an observation of the diverse plant life, tangled together in our own backyard. In his own home garden, neighbouring the Waitakere Ranges, the rigid rules of the British garden are forgotten. Native Nikau, Ponga, and Kauri trees stand behind and amongst ferns, random potted plants, Camellia bushes, Rhubarb and Basil, dotted with vibrant Marigolds, Dahlias and Foxgloves. 

Roch said that the new collection was something that he drew personal inspiration from.

“I’m fascinated with the layers of plants coming together, now interwoven but with their own story to tell. This is, I think, very much a reflection of this community with such diversity of culture and people. Like the garden, I can see the beauty in that.”