What better way to spend a crisp Saturday morning than to embark on a walking tour exploring the creative spaces across central Auckland.
I live right in the middle of CBD. In fact, just a couple of minutes away from Shortland Street and yet I hadn’t taken the time out to explore some of the most interesting art galleries sprinkled in my backyard. And so, when I read about an upcoming art walk for central Auckland, I signed up right away.
The group met at the Gus Fisher Gallery on Shortland Street and we were welcomed by our tour guide Megan Shaw, a PhD Candidate in Art History from the University of Auckland. The itinerary was to start at Gus Fisher and then head to Visions, Gow Langsford, and finish outside Auckland Art Gallery
Gus Fisher Gallery:
We were introduced to the works of Mark Schroder, Wong Ping, and Pinar Yoldas here. While Wong Ping and Pinar Yoldas’s works were video/animations, it was Mark Schroder’s installation that I was drawn most to. A lawyer during the day and an artist by night, Mark’s installation appeared to be reminiscent of bad office decor, cluttered desks – scenes we often witness ourselves in our corporate lives and perhaps a metaphor for unfullfilling jobs we often end up with. I also felt like the artist used a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour by displaying motivational posters around the cubicle such as “happy staff happy customers,” that corporates often use to influence their staff.
Curated by Francis McWhannell as part of the Auckland Pride Festival, Paul Johns exhibition “Been here long” is a collection of works of different media (neon-light based, photography, text, and even rocks). At the entrance of the show is a tall table, with rocks placed on it, each with neon text above them as if having a conversation with each other. While one asks “been here long” the other replies “a little while.”
Another piece that I was especially moved by were the black and white images (shot on film) of Beverly Smith, a transwoman who Johns had met in the 70s. The use of film to represent the LGBTQ community in a cinematic form was pretty stunning!
Next we made stops at both the Gow Langsford’s premises – Lorne Street and Kitchener Street.
The Lorne Street’s current exhibition called “Frieze” has some remarkable works of contemporary New Zealand artists such as Michael Hight and Grace Wright. It was interesting to notice when pointed out by our guide, Shaw, that the paintings were placed together in a long stretch, making it appear like a wrap around the wall as an inspiration from the classical frieze tradition, often found on Roman and Greek buildings. Sadly, this is the last exhibit to be hosted at this gallery after being around for almost 13 years.
The Kitchener Street space had on display “This is Life on Earth” by Chris Heaphy. His paintings have vibrant colours, often consisting of silhouettes of Māori iconography, perhaps exploring his perspectives of Aotearoa’s past in the form of modern art. The beauty is of course in the details and the closer you look at his paintings, the more meaning you can discover.
We concluded the walk at the entrance of the Auckland Art Gallery. Exploring it as part of the walk wasn’t on the itinerary but being told that it’s ongoing “Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art” is showcasing works of over 100 artists, consisting of contemporary Māori art spanning across paintings, sculptures, photography, digital media, film and installation art was enough to have our jaws dangling, and as Shaw aptly put it, “The Auckland Art Gallery has really set the bar with this exhibit.”
Text and photos by: Kirthika (Kiki) Prasad
Note from Aucklife: Thanks so much Kiki for volunteering your time! We look forward to collaborating on more projects with you.