Category Archives: New Zealand

Wonder at Oamaru’s Home Gallery Fine Arts and Living

Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct is full of wonderful surprises. Every time I visit I discover another. My most recent and, to date, my most wonderful find was Home Gallery Fine Arts and Living on the top floor of a former grain store, overlooking the old harbour.

Home Gallery – the old grain store

I have some beautiful memories of Art Galleries. They’re memories not just of treasures but of amazing spaces and extra-ordinary vistas. I remember the Tate Modern as much for the view of the Thames, the millennium bridge that spans it, and the dome of Old St Paul’s against the sky behind it, as I do for Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles. I remember the azure sea framed in the deep, white stone windows of the Picasso museum at Antibes as well as the great works it houses.

Persian Rugs and pictures

Like the Picasso Museum in Antibes, Oamaru’s Home Gallery is a memorable space. Just like the Picasso House, it’s not a purpose-built space, but a space that has been re-purposed. Just as Picasso’s sea-side villa became a showcase for the master’s works, so this old grain store has become a showcase for New Zealand artists. In the Picasso Museum works of art are scattered through living rooms and courtyards. In Home Gallery paintings hang on the limestone walls where once sacks of grain leaned. A display of Persian rugs lies scattered across a work-worn wooden floor. Like the Picasso Museum, Home Gallery has spectacular windows with unforgettable views. They’re tall, broad and arched at the top like church windows and set in aged limestone walls. They look out across the Pacific Ocean , Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, with its warm, turquoise light.

The view from Home Gallery’s windows

Home Gallery is clearly still an old grain store.  Light streams in from skylights and through the cracks in the double loading doors at the far end of the room. The ceiling is crisscrossed with heavy beams. The old conveyer that once hauled heavy sacks through the building sits still in the centre of the room. There’s a lingering smell of wheat and hessian. It isn’t hard to picture people at work here – the thud of grain-sacks and the creak of pulleys.  It must have taken imagination and vision to see it as showcase for art – imagination, vision and a great deal of hard work.

Home Gallery of fine arts was established by artist/ photographer Lucy Gardner in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. The devastation of the city had left artists without spaces to show their works and the local community without places to engage with art. Home Gallery was a new beginning ‘inspired and driven to help create places to deliver art for local community to engage with and provide audiences for investing in artists’ work’.

This inspiration and drive no doubt sustained Lucy Gardner, through the mammoth task of transforming the old grain store into a gallery. For weeks, she says, she spent all day, every day, scrubbing the beams and freeing the skylights of dust and cobwebs, cleaning the windows and walls of dirt and grime and sweeping debris from the floor.

Pictures on limestone walls

Now Home Gallery is a clean, light, quiet and restful place – a perfect backdrop for some beautiful works of art. They include pieces by significant New Zealand artists, from Beatrix Dobie to Charles Worsley as well as photographs by Lucy Gardner herself. Standouts for me were; Blair Grieg’s moody, misty oils which capture Aotearoa’s unique landscapes and singular light; Brian Strong’s Profiles of the West and The Summer Front with their glimpses of bush, waterfalls, tranquil bays and brooding skies; Lisa Wisse’s clair/obsur A Timeless Land where the light traces a path across the sea between dark hills and islands to the sky; and Lucy Gardner’s band and club life photos.

I have just finished reading Ariana Huffington’s Thrive. Among the “pillars” she sees as essential to thriving is a sense of wonder – the kind of feeling inspired by works of art, views and nature.

Home Gallery offers many wonders – the windows in those limestone walls, framing the Pacific ocean; the old grain-store – a piece of Oamaru’s past;  and most of all, those wonderful works of art with their insights into Aotearoa New Zealand and the way we see it.

If you can’t drop into Home Gallery Fine Arts and Living to enjoy its  wonders (but it’s worthwhile making the effort to do so) then visit www.homegalleryfinearts.com

 

 

 

WOW, Wellington’s festival of wearable art

It’s WOW, or World of Wearable Art, time in Wellington.

WOW Treasure Box
WOW Treasure Box

Every year in September, in Wellington, New Zealand’s cool little capital, designers from all over the world unleash their creativity in this extraordinary competition where art, in every expression and material meets fashion in all its forms. Competitors vie for over 150,00 dollars worth of prizes. The most coveted reward of all though is an internship in creative Nirvana, Weta Workshop.

A WOW pink cube
A WOW pink cube

WOW draws international costume designers and their creations (some of Madonna’s unforgettable garments are on display this year) as well as established locals and their works. It also  brings complete unknowns and absolute design novices of all ages and from all walks of life, into the spotlight. The competition’s history is rich with heart-warming stories of the “little people” who have taken to the WOW stage – like the middle-aged commercial cleaner who dreamed up a stunning plastic frock worthy of a Disney Cinderella.

A glimpse through the peephole
A glimpse through the peephole

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Wellington for the main event but I was there for the build up. Wellington is a place accustomed to thinking the outside the square. It has carved serpentine roads into vertical hillsides, planted elaborate houses on slivers of cliff, underpinned precious public buildings with rubber foundations to withstand earthquakes, built a hive for MPs then called it the Beehive and created an edgy, layered fashion look to defend against gale-force winds and sideways rain. So I wasn’t surprised to find that Wellington had come with an innovative way to advertise and preview the wonderful WOW experience.

Pink cubes, called treasure boxes, with multi-level and multi-sized peepholes, all around the city, provided glimpses of wearable art from WOW festivals past. I spent my day in Wellington, running like a Pokemon gamester, defying traffic hazards, short-cutting through shops and offices, hot on the treasure box trail. Fixing my eye, then my camera, to the average-level peephole, I enjoyed my very own WOW experience and brought away WOW memories to share.

New Zealand Noir

It’s July in the Mackenzie Country, at the foot of the Southern Alps, in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Winter has drained the colour from the land and left it in shades of grey and white.

Winter in the Mackenzie Country
Winter in the Mackenzie Country

The distant mountains are lost in the mist. It’s a strange, surreal and eerie landscape, like a scene from a Nordic Noir film.

It’s late morning and the road, closed because of heavy ice, has just opened. We have it all to ourselves, until our headlights pick out a hazy shape looming, like a ghost, in the mist ahead. It’s a motorbike rider in billowing overalls. We keep a safe distance. The roads are still slippery. The rider raises a hand to wave us past. We dare not. Beyond him is obscurity. He half turns his head. We drop back, leaving him to his lonely ride and wondering what pressing business, what unavoidable mission brought him out on a morning like this.

Time Unlimited Tours wins National Geographic World Legacy Award

The Auckland based tour company TIME Unlimited has just won the prestigious National Geographic World Legacy Award  in the “Sense of place Category”.  http://www.newzealandtours.travel

Time Unlimited's guided walks on Auckland's wild west coast
Time Unlimited’s guided walks on Auckland’s wild west coast

It’s no surprise to those who know Time Unlimited. For 11 years now they’ve been welcoming visitors to “their place” showing them its unbelievably beautiful landscapes and sharing its unique experiences with them.

Time Unlimited was established in 2005 by bicultural couple Ceillhe and Neill Sperath. Ceillhe is Maori, a direct descendant of the Ngapuhi chief, Patuone. Neill is tauiwi, of Irish and German origin, and a New Zealander by choice. Both are passionate about their country. Both are equally passionate about how its unique culture and environment should be shared. TIME Unlimited reflects this.

TIME Unlimited says Ceillhe Sperath, is founded on three essential pou, or pillars, of Maoritanga, or Maori culture; manaakitanga or hospitality, whanaungatanga, or relationships and kaitiakitanga, or guardianship. On their tours, the Speraths explain, manaakitanga translates into welcoming, respectful, caring, reliable and punctual service; whanaungatanga means sharing experiences, finding common ground, forging links, making friends and becoming like family; kaitiakitanga means responsibility, respect, care and protection for the environment – the streets, parks and institutions, the land, sea and bush that they pass through.

This highly contested, coveted National Geographic World Legacy Award is a fitting tribute to a company that has a true sense of place, that cherishes Aotearoa New Zealand and is dedicated to safeguarding it for future generations.

He mihi nui ki a koutou katoa!

Devonport

Devonport, on Auckland’s north shore is a quiet,  picturesque marine village.

An after school swim in Devonport
An after school swim in Devonport

Despite a shopping strip with upmarket boutiques and trendy restaurants, cafes and bars offering cuisine from all around the world, Devonport is a haven of a timeless, relaxed, New Zealand lifestyle.

Kids drop in for a swim after school at the wharf at Stanley Point, the ferry chugs in and out as it has for over a century, taking commuters over to the city to work, houses, grand and modest look out over the same million dollar harbour views and watch the cruise ships sail up Auckland Harbour.

Devonport’s Mount Victoria, another of Auckland’s extinct volcanoes, is the resting place of the great Ngapuhi chief Patuone. Known as the peacemaker because of the role he played in persuading the Tangata Whenua to accept a partnership with the British Crown rather than to attempt to resist it (against overwhelming odds, it must be said) he laid the foundations for modern bi-cultural Aotearoa New Zealand.

Devonport is also home to Auckland’s Naval Base.

Two good reasons to drop into Moeraki

Moeraki is a tiny seaside village with a huddle of beach houses, a pub, a community centre, a small sheltered harbour where a dozen weather beaten boats bob at anchor, a couple of beautiful sheltered bays with golden sand and rippling blue waves. It’s set right at the ocean’s edge, well off the track beaten by State Highway through the last quarter of Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island.

Fleur's Place
Fleur’s Place

Moeraki is not the kind of place that you might blink and miss. It’s the kind of place you might miss completely because you wouldn’t know that it was there, across the paddocks, hidden in the lee of the cliffs. There are, however two compelling reasons to slow at the Moeraki turn-off, leave State Highway 1 and cruise slowly towards the sea.

The first reason is the mysterious Moeraki boulders. Round and perfect, they sit like giant cannon balls on the sand. Maori legend has it that the boulders are the remains of calabashes, eel baskets and kumara, washed up after the wreck of the waka, or canoe Arai-te-uru. The nearby rocky arms that reach out into the sea are said to be the waka’s hull and the promontory nearby is the body of the captain. Science explains them as rocks pulled from their mudstone bed by the sea, caked with thousands of layers of mud and sand and slat by the wind and water, then worn smooth and round by the constant wash of the waves.

The second reason to take that detour off State Highway One and meander down to Moeraki, is Fleur’s Place, one of the region’s if not the South Island’s, if not even Aotearoa NZ’s most popular seafood restaurants. Set at the edge of the little harbour, overlooking the boats on one side and the vast Pacific horizon on the other, Fleur’s Place is housed in a weather worn corrugated iron and stone building. Inside its walls are busy with memorabilia of Moeraki’s seafaring history. On the day we dropped into Fleur’s, without a booking, all the tables were taken and only the last three seats at the bar remained. We took them and then watched a stream of disappointed, also unbooked punters turned away. The seafood with thick slices of rustic bread and the fish of the day with salad and chips explained why it is always absolutely imperative to book at Fleurs. Everything was fresh, perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Furthermore, Fleur’s is a place with a wonderful atmosphere, a superb outlook and interesting, helpful and cheerful staff.

Don’t miss Moeraki, make the turn, ponder the mysterious boulders, enjoy a fresh from the ocean seafood lunch at Fleurs, but to guarantee your place even at the bar, book.

Ferrymead Heritage Park

Located at the foot of Christchurch’s Port Hills, on the site, initially, of an ancient Maori hunting ground and later, of Zealand’s first public railway, Ferrymead Heritage Park includes the model town of Moorhouse (old Christchurch from colonial times to the 1920s) as well as a transport and technology museum.

The Grocer's store at Ferrymead
The Grocer’s store at Ferrymead

On weekends and during holidays, a team of dedicated volunteers mans the businesses and transport of Moorhouse and visitors stream into the little town to ride the tram and the old steam train.

On the Thursday afternoon that we visited Ferrymead all its attractions were ‘static’, which meant that neither the transport, nor the businesses in the town were manned and operating. Still everything was open and the whole of Moorhouse was ours.

We could visit one another in “our” cottages and shops. We could linger in the dimly-lit church and in the spooky gaol, where a criminal dummy lay stretched on a bed, staring with glassy eyes at a small barred window. We could tinker with the pumps in the street and potter with the gadgets in the sheds. We could sit in the single classroom in the little school. We could push buttons and follow tiny trains around miniature landscapes, through tunnels, points, signals and crossings in the model railway shed. We could hide in the thunderbox outhouse and scuff along dusty roads.

There were huge garages lined with motors from every era. There were hangars full of aeroplanes, including an old NAC Friendship like the one on which I took my first flight in the 1960s.

It was a great afternoon for all of us – a lovely walk down Memory Lane for the baby boomers and a fabulous flight of imagination for the 21st century kids.

A last word on Wellington

When you’ve explored Te Papa, tramped out the walkways, south, east and city to sea, descended into Middle Earth, soaked up the uber cool atmosphere of Cuba Street and the Aro Valley, studied the seals at Red Rocks and taken in the view of the Kaikouras from the south coast, ridden the cable car, shopped the fabulous NZ fashion houses down on Customhouse Quay, taken a taste adventure at Fusion Virtuoso in Manners Mall, strolled along Oriental Bay, eating a Kapiti ice-cream – in short, when you’ve worn yourself out trying to do everything there is to do in Wellington, head down to the waterfront.

Taking a dive down on the Wellington Waterfront
Taking a dive down on the Wellington Waterfront

Collapse into a bean-bag on the lawn outside the bar behind the old St John’s Ambulance HQ. It’s name? I can’t say and haven’t time right now to google it – but you can’t miss it. Order up a beer and people watch.

No spare bean bags. Don’t worry! Head around the corner to the big brick building – there’s an even bigger bar here, with indoor and outdoor spaces. If there’s no room at this inn, then pinch a chair and with that and your tipple of choice in hand, park yourself at the land’s edge. Start your own party and or just enjoy the view.

The view down here is fascinating. There are tugboats at anchor, birds wheeling, people walking and, despite all the signs prohibiting it, youths doing death-defying dives from the wharf.

This cavalier of behaviour, which flies in the face of rules, weather and convention yet emerges, wet, shivering but grinning in the teeth of discomfort, is a fitting last word on Wellington for me. Against impossible climatic and geographical odds, it not only survives but thrives, with a flourish!

Te Papa

Creative, quirky and vibrant, Wellington has the feel of a place where things happen and where anything is possible. Hippy, arty, Bohemian and discerning, with a taste for the good things of life and an overlay of NZ’s distinctive Maori Polynesian traditions, it has a culture all of its own.

Te Papa
Te Papa

Te Papa, Wellington’s Museum is the perfect cultural storehouse for a city like this. As a building it is strikingly different. It crouches boldly, almost defiantly at the water’s edge, its bold  stone and glass  glinting in the sun, glistening in the rain.

When it opened in 1997, Te Papa was a forerunner in the hands on, inter-active whizz-bang fleet of world Museums, with their attention-grabbing displays. Nor has it shied away from the controversial or contentious and one of its early exhibitions which included the infamous virgin in a condom, had banner waving protesters lined up outside its doors for days.

Yet, alongside all this, Te Papa has provided a fitting place for the ancient treasures of the nation, those things which need no shouts of acclamation but make their own discreet statement. So it is with many Te Papa exhibitions too, which plainly and quietly, tell the stories of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Papa is a must for any Wellington visit.

Taylor 100% pure New Zealand

Browsing among the elegant and superbly cut collection in Wellington’s Taylor Boutique in the Old Bank Building on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Hunter Street, one might well wonder if the name Taylor is play on the name of the age old trade.

Taylor, in the old Bank Building, Customhouse Quay
Taylor, in the old Bank Building, Customhouse Quay

But no, Taylor is the family name of founder Vicki Taylor, daughter, as it happens, of a fashion industry family.

Still, exquisite tailoring, along with impeccable production and the closest attention to detail, is a hallmark of Taylor pieces. So is fine cloth and all fabrics are carefully selected form the world’s best mills.

The house of Taylor is staunchly Aotearoa New Zealand. Taylor  fashions are fully designed and manufactured in New Zealand. Furthermore, Taylor has steered clear of global stores and outlets. Taylor collections are sold only in Taylor boutiques and online stores.

Careful, classy and 100% pure New Zealand – that’s Taylor!