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Reflections on a Grey Room

2017 Taranaki National Art Awards


TSB Community Trust Painting Award


People's Choice Award

Image copyright Fern Petrie 2017

Fern Petrie, Reflections on a Grey Room, Oil on Canvas, 2017

‘Reflections on a Grey Room’ is a very personal statement about the psychological impact of infertility. The title references the day I found out that it would be difficult for me conceive naturally and how my mind fused this moment with the colour of the consulting room; a bluish grey which symbolized the emotional tone of our struggle over the next ten years.


This image like all of my work over the last decade began with a Victorian photograph. The image I chose was an unknown young woman displaced by time but who inherently spoke to me of myself at her age. Infertility is an challenge which affects many people and by referencing this young woman alongside symbols of my own personal struggle I have attempted to highlight an age old issue; the rift between the desires of the mind and the limitations of the body.


In this work I have portrayed the body as a fortress of gleaming polished stone sitting atop a cracked bedrock footing. Feelings of self-doubt can be noted in the interpretation of a Tudor collar worn in a famous posthumous painting of Anne Boleyn whose sad fate was compounded by the fact she had won the man she desired but could not bear him a son.


On the other hand references to the love and support of my husband have been woven into the image. Tokens which reference both of our temperaments and desires offset each other to strengthen the work. Also of note are symbols of the inspirational lives lived by women who never bore children but still had astonishing, valuable and creative existences.


One such reference are the lion epaulettes which allude to Jehanne d’Arc. Her passion and commitment to her cause was undeniable and she will stand forever as a symbol of mental strength and courage. Another inclusion is the shell grotto which makes up the tabernacle in the chest. This is a nod to A La Ronde; the sixteen sided Devon house built by Mary and Jane Parminter in the 18th century. This incredible house was passed down from one unmarried woman to the next in an age where straying from the socially prescribed path was frowned upon. I see the shell grotto as a creative monument to individuality, curiosity and self-betterment.


Many such references are lovingly embellished symbolically in this painting to speak about different aspects of self-worth and the roads on which we find ourselves which may differ from the ones we imagined walking upon.


Just before it was completed I was in my studio working on this painting when I received the phone call that I never expected - that the final embryo to be implanted had been successful.














'Reflections on  a Grey Room' will be available in an edition of 38 limited edition archival prints.

To be priced at $380 each representing my age when our son will be born.

To register your interest please email

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