Open for business – an interview with Lara Strongman, Christchurch Art Gallery

The Christchurch Art Gallery re-opened on Saturday 19 December 2015, and has had record visit numbers ever since. Their latest publication is 101 works of art, beautifully designed by Aaron Beehre, features texts by Lara Strongman, Ken Hall, Felicity Milburn, Nathan Pohio, Peter Vangioni and Jenny Harper.

101 works of art book - Christchurch Art Gallery
101 works of art. Flickr 2016-01-15-IMG_2051

Lara Strongman

Lara Strongman is the senior curator of the Christchurch Art Gallery, and I talked to her about the re-opening.

Now that the Gallery is open again, what’s your feeling as to how people are using and enjoying it?

I’m a little surprised—but very moved—by the deeply emotional response people are having to the re-opening. There have been many people in tears. It’s not just that they are seeing the works they’ve missed over the past five years, it’s what it means to them to be seeing the gallery open again.

There have been many unsolicited hugs for Jenny (the Art Gallery director).

I’ve noticed lots of teenagers coming through, as well as families and international visitors. Wayne Youle’s postcard project has people sending messages all round the world to tell people to come and visit, as well as Christchurch people sending them to other family members.

Parents are showing young children works they haven’t seen, but which were very familiar to their parents. (There’s a half generation of kids who’ve never visited the gallery, or who were too young at the time of the earthquakes to remember.) There are loads of old favourites on show, but also works that are new to everyone – Unseen and The Newest new world are examples. People are also discovering unexpected connections between works:

When the Gallery was closed, you all branched out – blogging, social media, exhibitions in different places and out on the streets, will these things still play a role? How has being closed changed the Gallery?

Now we’re open again, we’ve brought the Outer Spaces projects back into the proximity of the gallery. While we were shut, we went out into the city, and in the process learned a great deal about putting different kinds of art into public spaces. Now we’re commissioning new works for unexpected spaces around the gallery building and concourse. We’re calling them Other Spaces.

What’s coming up?

Local artist Tony de Lautour is painting a new work on the Bunker building out the front of the gallery that will be open for Waitangi weekend. We’re also opening our final summer exhibition, Op and Pop. There’s a massive interactive work called Tangle on the forecourt, especially for kids and families over the weekend. And I understand there’s going to be free gelato again, courtesy of our friends at NZI.

Over this year, our collection shows will be constantly changing. And I’m really looking forward to A Beautiful Hesitation, the survey exhibition by Ngai Tahu artist Fiona Pardington coming up mid year.

Christchurch Art Gallery
Christchurch Art Gallery reopening weekend, Sunday 20 December 2015. Flickr 2015-12-20-IMG_1713

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries! They’re my second favourite places, after art galleries. Curators spend a lot of time in libraries, doing research. And I really admire Christchurch City Libraries: the way they’re continuously innovative and put people first.

The Gallery’s librarian Tim Jones deals with a lot of research enquiries, including some extremely obscure ones. There is sharing of archival information around the world, which helps fill in gaps in understanding. By putting works online, unknown works start to be identified and our knowledge of the collection is made richer and more complex.

You also have another gig, doing tv reviews on Radio New Zealand. What are your picks?

This summer I’m going to do a rewatch of Deadwood (my favourite show). I hear there’s a telemovie coming out that will tie up the loose ends.
Season 2 of Catastrophe: it’s quite rude but very funny.
And I’ve been watching Luther from the beginning — I like watching an episode each evening and becoming immersed in the story, as if you’re reading a chapter each night. It’s a very bookish way of watching telly.

Thanks to Lara, and to the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Read more

Read articles and interviews by Lara on the Christchurch Art Gallery website, including:

You can also find works by Lara Strongman in our collection.

Christchurch Art Gallery photos

The newest new world by Pip & Pop
The newest new world by Pip & Pop, Flickr 2015-12-20-IMG_1690
Sign
Christchurch Art Gallery reopening weekend, Sunday 20 December 2015. Flickr 2015-12-20-IMG_1673

Find more on our page on art.

Haere mai Christchurch Art Gallery

“We regret that the Gallery is currently closed for repairs.” I’m used to seeing that on the Christchurch Art Gallery website. But now there is a new message twinkling at me: “We’ll be reopening on Saturday 19 December at 10.00am.” Yes, the big news in town is that the Christchurch Art Gallery is set to re-open TOMORROW, and they are going to spoil us rotten with a Summer of Art. YAY!

The last exhibition I saw at Christchurch Art Gallery was Ron Mueck. Remember that? I was wowed, and took loads of photos.

Ron Mueck Exhibition
Ron Mueck Exhibition. October 2010. Flickr CCL-RonMueck-2010-10-01-IMG_0647

But while the gallery has been closed to the public since 22 February 2011, it has carried on its work. In the process, it has changed the perception of what a gallery is, and does. I’d like to pay tribute to the amazing team at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu  – in the last five years they’ve shown an art gallery is more than a building – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata (it is people, it is people, it is people).

Sign on Art Gallery
Kay Rosen: Here are the people and there is the steeple. Sunday 19 October 2014. Flickr 2014-10-19-IMG_2763

Here’s some of the ways the crew have kept us art lovers satisfied:

Art in the streets

Outer Spaces and artworks out there in wilding Christchurch …

1 July 2012. Michael Parekowhai's installation "On first looking into Chapman's Homer". 1 July 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-07-01IMG_472
Michael Parekowhai’s installation “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”.  July 2012. Flickr CCL-2012-07-01IMG_4725
Gregor Kregar: Reflective Lullaby
Gregor Kregar: Reflective lullaby Friday 11 October 2013. Flickr 2013-10-11-IMG_9730
Ronnie van Hout - coming home
Comin’ down by Ronnie van Hout.  28 May 2014. Flickr 2014-05-28-IMG_0132

Read curator Felicity Milburn’s article Sparks that fly upwards on “five years and 101 installations in a gallery without walls”.

Art in libraries

Our temporary Central Library Peterborough could claim to be an Art Library. It features Richard Killeen’s the Inner binding on its frontage.

Central Library Peterborough also showcased  splendid exhibitions curated by Peter Vangioni – books and art came together in a beautiful way.

A History of the Birds of New Zealand (1873) by Walter Buller
A History of the Birds of New Zealand (1873) by Walter Buller. New Zealand Illustrated: Pictorial Books from the Victorian Age.  Friday 11 October 2013. Flickr 2013-10-11-IMG_9757

Exhibitions

There were a steady stream of interesting exhibitions in other places. I toddled along to a space above the NG gallery, upstairs at C1 Espresso/Alices on Tuam Street, and even to a show in a house at the Wigram subdevelopment.

Keeping us in touch

Their supercool mag Bulletin, blogging, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), regular articles in The Press (the latest in the series From the Christchurch Art Gallery collection is Lara Strongman on Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica by Anne Noble)  – curators and other staff continually keep up to date with arty stuff.

Whanau fun

The Christchurch Art Gallery’s work over the last five years has kept kids in mind. As a Mum, that means a lot. For the re-opening, there’s a lolly wonderland by Tanya Schultz to welcome the kids in, as well as the Imagination Playground – and plenty more kid-friendly things to do and see.  I can’t wait to take my daughter in on Saturday and say “Here you go! This is your gallery!”

Out of the box - Christchurch Art Gallery family fun day
Saturday 27 September 2014. Out of the box family fun day. Flickr 2014-09-27-IMG_2354

Hopefully see you there on Saturday!

More art

If you want to know about the building itself over the last five years, Lara Strongman’s oral history of the gallery building, 2010-2015 is essential reading.

My word! Quotes by New Zealand women

Massey University has released a list of contenders for 2015’s Quote of the Year, and the lack of quotes by women was noted in  this article by Alex Casey in The Spinoff: Are New Zealand’s Quotes of the Year Really All By Men?

Word
WORD art in Auckland. Flickr: 2013-05-18-IMG_7052

This seems odd. There are heaps of top quotes from New Zealand women writers this year:

Paula Morris at the On belonging WORD Christchurch session.

People think when you’re a writer and you haven’t written a novel for ten years that you’re just lying around eating bon bons all day.

Fiona Farrell (at the Imaginary Cities WORD Christchurch session)

I find great poignancy & loveliness in our constant attempt to make life better.

Margaret Wilson is eminently quotable – here are some from her WORD Christchurch session on the struggle for sovereignty:

The economy is not an end in itself.

Dairy farmers will be sold out in the interests of getting a political agreement.

Media is owned by people who don’t give a stuff about the media.

At the Auckland Writers Festival, Aroha Harris said:

History is one of the most powerful colonizing tools available. Especially if you are writing it from your point of view as a hero.

Hmmmm.

For all you lovers of words, see also the splendiferous annual wordup Public Address word of the year.

Ten quotes from The Villa at the edge of the empire: One hundred ways to read a city

Cover of The Villa at the Edge of the empireNew Zealand’s most important book in 2014 was Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager. This year it is The villa at the edge of the empire: One hundred ways to read a city by Fiona Farrell.

I thought about how to express its power – it’s about Christchurch, but is bigger than that. It contains deep wisdom and a powerful historical sense. It is about the world. So I’ve decided to sample Fiona’s words – here are ten quotes.

1: This city took time to assemble. (p.55)

2: An earthquake is not simply a geological event. It occurs within a specific social and political context. (p.73)

3: For a second, as the entire city is flung into the air, there is unison. Then we fall back to earth and the map smashes into a hundred tiny pieces. (p.88)

4: In this city, it is easy to feel lost. (p. 103)

5: In the meantime, through the cracks, other kinds of art have emerged. The art gallery has been closed, but artists have covered walls newly exposed by demolition with imagery and colour. (p.129)

6: The personal is political. (p.158)

7: Forgiveness and retribution are a theme in L’Aquila, as they are in Christchurch. (p.224)

8: We are ‘stoical’. We are ‘strong’ and ‘southern’. To complain is to be a ‘carper’ or a ‘moaner’. It is a sign of weakness. Viewed from another city in another country, however, this resilience can also be seen as a weird suppressed passivity. (p.237)

9: I take a kind of deep comfort in reading thoughts prompted by an earthquake 2000 years ago and thousands of kilometres away. I like the vision of the world as a squirming thing filled with breath, not so far from the Polynesian vision of the great woman lying on her back with us all, naked as newborn kits, upon her belly. (p.248)

10: I’ve come to love this city … now it seems fragile, vulnerable and precious in that vulnerability, as do other cities in this country no matter how cocky they may have tried to be … (p343)

More Fiona Farrell

Best book covers of 2015 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but a title’s jacket performs an important role. It signals what is within, and it entices you to pick it from a shelf. Here’s my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of 2015:

#1 First to the top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris. This is a clever, cool picture book about Sir Edmund Hillary, and Phoebe’s illustrations are so crisp and character-filled I kept going back and looking again.  Find out more about Phoebe on the Penguin Random House website and visit Phoebe’s website.
Cover of First to the top

#2 Work by Sarah Jane Barnett. Why is it that books of poetry often have superfine covers? I don’t know, but this typographic beauty is so strong and potent, I can’t look away. Love that blast of yellow too. Find out more about Duncan Forbes’ cover design work on Sarah Jane Barnett’s blog.
Cover of Work

#3 For someone I love: A collection of writing by Arapera Hineira Blank. A joyously beautiful photo makes a brilliant book cover. This is Arapera Blank and her Swiss husband, photographer Pius Blank. Their son Anton Blank has more info on this selfie of his parents.
Cover of For Someone I love

Here are some more of my favourites:

New Zealanders

Plenty of titles make the most of New Zealand characters.

Cover of Zizz Cover of Stuff I forgot to tell my daughter Cover of Rugby Cover of James K. Baxter Cover of Busby Cover of Face to Face Cover of Visual memories Cover of Kahawai Cover of Real Modern Cover of Maurice Gee Cover of Hocken Cover of The Good Doctor Cover of In the hands of strangers Cover of The Invisible Mile

Poetry

Artful, creative, eye-pleasing – here are volumes of poetry that capture attention.

Cover of Wonky Optics Cover of Thuds underneath Cover of This must be the place Cover of Shaggy magpie songs Cover of Half Dark Cover of Jerusalem sonnets Cover of Miss Dust Cover of Dear Neil Roberts Cover of Being There Cover of Failed Love poems Cover of Trifecta

For kids

Here’s three bold covers, including a new picture book by Vasanti Unka.

Cover of Whiti te rā Cover of Stripes! No, Spots! Cover of Havoc

Colours and patterns

Striking uses of colour and texture make for standout covers.

Cover of In the neighbourhood of fame Cover of I have in my arms both ways Cover of The lives of colonial objects Cover of Democracy in New Zealand Cover of How to grow an addict

Special mention

BWB texts – The book design of these texts is plain, but much like Penguin Books there is virtue in that simplicity. This distinctive design signifies the quality thinking to be found within.

Cover of Generation Rent

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Joe Bennett in convo – Thursday 24 September

Cover of Alive and kickingJoe Bennett has written his first novel – King Rich. And you can hear him talk all about it this Thursday 24 September. There was a great article by Eleanor Black in The Press on Saturday: Christchurch a broken backdrop for Joe Bennett’s first novel – and anyone who read this will be uber-keen to read King Rich:

Joe Bennett heard a story at a pub – where else –  that he couldn’t resist. A vagrant had made himself at home in the Grand Chancellor Hotel, the 26-storey leaning tower of luxury that was a leading symbol of the city’s ruin until finally demolished by diggers.

You can also get the word from the horses’s mouth (it’s at the Blossom Lady Lounge at Addington Raceway) at a WORD Christchurch evening with Joe Bennett, Thursday 24 September, 7.30pm. Book now!

Cover of fish like a drink Cover of Double happinessCover of Celebrity Cat recipesCover of The World's your lobster Cover of Where underpants come from?

 

That was then, this is now – 4 September 2010 / 4 September 2015

This morning I took some photos of familiar places, of my old neighbourhood. To see what things look like now.

I used to buy bagels and fruit and vege from here. Here’s what it looked like early on 4 September 2010.

Daily Bagel and Covent Fruit Centre September 4 2010, Kete Christchurch

Here’s what it looks like now.

Victoria Street

Victoria Street, Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9102

Knox Church was looking poorly on 4 September 2010.

Knox Church, 4 September 2010.

Knox Church, 4 September 2010. Kete Christchurch.

And now, all new and fresh.

Knox Church, Victoria Street

Knox Church. Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9109

The Central Library on Gloucester Street, soon after the quake.

WiFi users outside the Central Library

WiFi users outside the Central Library Even though the library is closed due to the earthquake customers are still happy using the free Wi Fi, 7 September 2010. Flickr CCL-CE-2010-09-07-DSC01928

And the same spot now.

Old Central Library site, Gloucester Street

Central Library site. Christchurch. Friday 4 September 2015. Flickr 2015-09-04-IMG_9162

Here’s the 2015 photos. There are also photos of the same area from 4 September 2014. There have been plenty of changes since then too.

The Press has done some Then and Now features:

And the CEISMIC crew have revisited five key sites, five years later.

More photos and stories:

Our blog posts looking back:

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Audience
Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

Cover of Close your eyes Cover of Watching you Cover of Say you're sorry Cover of Life or death Cover of The suspect

4 September 2010 – 5th anniversary ceremony

Kia ora Christchurchians and Cantabrians, we thought you might be interested in this information from Mayor Lianne Dalziel on a dawn ceremony on 4 September 2015 – it will be five years since we all got shaken out of bed at 4.35am when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck.

The media release: Dawn ceremony for fifth earthquake anniversary

Mayor Lianne Dalziel is inviting Cantabrians to join her for a special sunrise ceremony in remembrance of the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake.

Residents are invited to gather on the beach outside the New Brighton Library from 6.10am on Friday 4 September 2015, the fifth anniversary of the first Christchurch earthquake.

A short ceremony will be held ending with a shared watching of the sunrise at approximately 6.50am.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says, “This is the time, on the dawn of the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, to gather together as a community to reflect on our city’s journey. It is a chance to remember what we have been through since September 2010 and, as the sun rises, to look ahead to what the future may hold.”

Parking is available in the carpark north of New Brighton Library. Temporary lighting on the beach will lead you to the gathering point just past the pier.

Find out more about 4 September 2010 earthquake.

Pride and Perversion

You are a sexual deviant.

Talk about opening a book with a zinger! I’m looking forward to hearing Jesse Bering in person –  6pm on Sunday 30 August 2015, a WORD Christchurch event in the Shifting points of view section of the Christchurch Arts Festival. His topic? On Perversion. Get your tickets now yo. This is not a session for kids or the squeamish; it’s definitely adult in nature.

I’ve just read his book Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. As a librarian, I’m an index checker and this is one that’d make your eyes water: sneeze fetishists, autoplushophiles, formicophilia, Miley Cyrus …

This is a book that asks some great questions:

We’ve become so focused as a society on the question of whether a given sexual behavior is evolutionarily “natural” or unnatural” that we’ve lost sight of the more important question: Is it harmful? (p.21)

Jesse takes us right back to the origins of the term:

For the longest time, in fact, to be a pervert wasn’t to be a sex deviant; it was to be an atheist … So if we applied this original definition to the present iconoclastic world of science, one of the world’s most recognizable perverts would be the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. (p.9 /10)

The book is a journey into the world of “erotic outliers” (doesn’t that sound much better than pervert). It contains a good dollop of the personal, as well as science, politics, history, literature, and psychology – and, of course, the nature of sexual arousal. There are also plenty of interesting examples of behaviours; you’ll never look at the yoghurt in your office fridge the same way.

Jesse quotes the Roman philosopher Terence (p. 8):

I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

More understanding. Less judginess.

Cover of Perv Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that? Cover ot The God instinct