Three new galleries put a host of art on show

There’s been a lot of hanging around town lately – of art, that is – with no fewer than three new galleries between them showing a wide range of local and New Zealand works.

An aptly named ‘The Wharf Gallery’ was the first to open, the old Raglan retro shop premises now a series of pristine white walls displaying art from around the country.

The gallery celebrated its opening just under a fortnight ago with an evening of food and wine enjoyed by 70 or so art lovers. Proud owner Sharon O’Brien says her point of difference is to showcase “high-end” contemporary works from emergent through to established artists.

She is insisting on showing and selling only original artwork.

Included in the inaugural exhibition of works by 20-odd artists are pieces from Raglan’s Astrid Conjaerts Schepel, Lindsey Baker and Rick Youmans who, coincidentally, has his own art and design creative space next door.

Hamilton-based Shirley Cresswell whose realist acrylic paintings often include Raglan scenes is also featured along with other artists from the Waikato, Auckland, Wellington and the South Island.

Sharon intends to regularly show new works and to have solo exhibitions which, she points out, need to be organised a year in advance to give particular artists time to build up their current catalogues.

She says supporting “young up-and-coming” artists is also important to her.

A successful businesswoman perhaps best known locally for establishing Whale Bay’s luxury Waoku Lodge, Sharon has a background in fine arts and is “always dabbling”.

Back in the CBD, ‘La Petite Gallerie’ and ‘Artists at Work’ studio and gallery opened their doors within days of each other last week – one on Wainui Rd and the other across the road in Electric Ave.

Laurie Kirby, a Raglan resident for 15 years, says the idea of having her own little gallery came during Covid-19 lockdown when she had time on her hands so just kept on painting.

“I had no more wall space in my home and friends were sick of getting my work,” she laughs.

Then the onetime Scintilla boutique premises just along from The Shack came up for grabs. Now, with a striking set of french doors as its entranceway, ‘La Petite Gallerie’ boasts a range of Laurie’s big, bold, colourful artwork.

The exhibition’s entitled – curiously – “untitled”. Her explanation? “I want the viewer to share the journey, to see the shapes and colours and create their own perceptions.”

Though created from her imagination, the works are influenced by “the masters” Laurie loves, with hints of Picasso or US abstract impressionist Mark Rothko.

Laurie has a design degree and a background as an interior designer who purchased and framed artwork for clients. Now she can paint, frame and exhibit for herself.

She’ll share her gallery space with artist friends, without charging much commission. ‘La Petite Gallerie’ is after all more of a hobby, she says.

By contrast ‘Artists at Work’ – which occupies the old Whaingaroa Organic Kai premises – is a space shared by well-established artists Jane Galloway and Marise Rarere, who until now have worked primarily from their homes and exhibited locally at the likes of Show Off Aotearoa.

The duo will work from their combined studio and sell from its adjoining gallery, which is open on weekends and public holidays or by appointment.

The gallery is also showing the works of fellow locals like Claudia Grutke, Lindsey Baker and Chris Meek, along with art from Auckland and Wellington.

For Marise the move is a “long-held dream” which allows her to make some bigger works, while for Jane it underscores a recent change from realist painting to a more abstract style inspired by a “life-changing” online art course she completed during lockdown.    

Edith Symes