Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

Christchurch Art Gallery is a must-visit in Christchurch!

Of course, I could be accused of being prejudiced – I lived opposite the gallery as it was built, so heard and felt every pile being driving into the stoney Canterbury soil, so agree, I do have a feeling of ownership.

Here are a few photos I took in December.

A few other photos from over the years:

Christchurch Art Gallery —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duishan Art District, Xiamen, China

 

The Duishan Art District, near Jemei University in Xiamen, China has a gallery to display contemporary work by regional, and prominent, artists. Like the art I saw at the University was thought provoking and different to our (my) expectations.

Our group, all coffee aficionados, were also happy to drink the excellent coffee served at the café.

Despite the coffee, tea plays an important part in the artists lives – each had a tea ceremony area in their studio.

 

 

Great art at Jimei University, Xiamen, China

On my recent trip to Xiamen, China I was interested to see local art and, as our Kiwi tour leader, Janet Andrews, had attended the Arts Academy at Jimei University as an exchange student just a few years ago we were lucky enough to visit the Fine Art College there.jemei-unijemei-uni

She was treated like a visiting rock star and we rode on those coat-tails. An exhibition of the students end of the semester work was very different to our preconceived ideas about Chinese art.

Here are some of their work and the fantastic artwork around the University grounds.

If you have the chance to visit this Uni, grab it!

My next post will be about the Duishan Art District and some of the artists, who graduated from Jemei Uni, and have studios there.

 

NOTE: thanks for the  assitance to travel in this region as part of the cultural delegation from Xiamen’s sister city Wellington, New Zealand.

See more here –http://www.wellingtonxiamen.com and check #Xiamen for photos on Instagram, and in this blog for many other posts about my great week there.

A Sunday afternoon in Christchurch

A few images from a lovely afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand. (taken on my phone)

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Christchurch Art Gallery reflects me and old villas
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Hard to see, but a few godwits feed after recently arriving for their summer feed fest (from Alaska)
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Yellow wattle and blue skies at The Columbo shopping centre
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the award-winning cafe Hello Sunday in an old church. Beside The Columbo

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Entrance to Rutherford’s Den. Christchurch Arts Centre

 

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Christchurch Art Gallery – a must visit

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Is there an elephant in the room? Christchurch, New Zealand

 

As part of my upcoming series of blogs about Christchurch let’s first talk about the elephant in the room. In other words, the earthquakes that shook my city in 2010 – 2011.

I left Christchurch some eight weeks after the September 2010 quake, not because of the 7.3 quake or its many aftershocks, but a decision that had been made in May that year. Since then, I have returned to Christchurch on dozens of occasions so, although I have not lived through the many but normal aftershocks, I have closely seen the devastation wrought on my city.

My roots are deep in this wonderful city: my Cornish maternal roots arrived here in 1862, while my Scottish paternal roots arrived in 1873 – and there they remained, planted and flourishing on the stony plains and peninsula ever since. During this series of blogs, I will be talking about Christchurch as it is post-quake, as well as linking it to my past.

My frequent trips down from Wellington, and usually staying in the city centre, means I’ve watched the continuing journey as a new city emerges. Let’s not pull any punches, Christchurch will never be the old Christchurch again. While I mourn this loss I also celebrate the new – as it is emerging. Those seismic shocks have and are certainly changing the face of the city.

An air of creativity and innovation flows through the city but unfortunately it seems many locals are not aware of this, and say they don’t come into the city as there is nothing to do. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Tourists, and those working in the city centre, are well aware of many things to do. Some of it involves quake tourism of course, for others it’s checking out the huge artworks around the CBD, taking their kids to the magnificent Margaret Mahy playground, promenading, dining and shopping along New Regent Street, which I believe, is now Christchurch’s oldest retail area.

One thing I became very aware of during my last visit (February 2016) is how many tourists still find the devastation hard to handle and often only stay a night or two. One of the difficulties for them seems to be they are unsure what is actual ‘quake damage’ and what has been demolished ‘because of’ the quake. (NOTE: I again suggest the council or some other such body create a historic plaque to state “This building is a quake survivor’ for building owners to use).

It also seems that many find the city-wide building sites noisy and annoying, whereas I see them as a sign of vitality of the city and positive growth. Unfortunately, it seems travellers many arrive at the airport grab their campervan or rental car and take off, heading south or west. Many I spoke to said they’d been told by people in other parts of New Zealand ‘there is nothing to see down there.’ Most said they were thrilled they had ignored the ill informed advice.

Nice curves on one of the new buildings
Nice curves on one of the new buildings

To learn about the quake, I can absolutely recommend Quake City, a Canterbury Museum project, on Cashel Mall. Our city centre lost 80% of its buildings, not because they fell down, but because they had to be demolished as being unsafe, this means Christchurch has had much of its history erased.

The sad deaths, from the February 2011 6.3 quake, occurred mostly in two relatively modern buildings which did collapse. The artwork of white chairs as a memorial to them is  on the site of my old church: St Paul’s Trinity Pacific, which growing up as a city kid, was the church I attended, and married in, and in those days was just called St Paul’s: it too was a quake casualty.

So, whether you live in Christchurch, or are visiting for a few days, make sure you see the real city centre and learn our history, not just the oft-repeated, lazy writing about Christchurch, as being conservative, just like England, or other such nonsense, this is a new city, developing new roots, and growing on top of our old foundations.

As well is reading some of the many books, stories, and poems that have sprung up post-quake you can also follow my blogs about Christchurch, so I can introduce you to the new as well is the old. Don’t forget many of our buildings (20% remember) survived, albeit most needing repairs, some major, some minor, but we still have many of our wonderful Gothic buildings in use.

So yes the ‘elephant in the room’, our seismic shakes, have jolted us, have left many traumatised, homes and businesses are gone, but a new, hopefully greener, city is emerging, and despite, or because of, my deep roots in Christchurch I celebrate that new city and feel excited every time something old reopens, or something new opens. Of course I am sad that much of my personal history is gone,  however, looking over my shoulder at something no longer there is wasting time and energy that I prefer to use positively.

Despite now living in Wellington, I’m a Cantabrian through and through, one-eyed, wearing red and black, and cheering on our sports teams, and the rebuild!  However, this does not mean I wear pink coloured glasses when writing about the city. At times I have been and will be critical, especially at locals who voice many opinions about the inner city, despite not having visited the CBD for months, or even years; a heavy-handed government making decisions they have no right to make, or delay; and the Anglican church for the damage their wrecking ball inflicted on the cathedral, and the continuing damage they are allowing by not closing the building to the elements. I believe they caused more damage than the quakes did.

Next week: our gothic buildings.

Thank-you to Breakfree On Cashel for hosting me during part of my stay in the city.

Detail of the Chalice - public art in'the square'
Detail of the Chalice – public art in the square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Keating creates a huge art work in Christchurch, New Zealand

Ash Keating, the Melbourne (Australia) artist was commissioned (by Gap Filler and the Christchurch Art Gallery) to create a large art work in Christchurch in 2012.  He was in the city at the time of the February 2011 quake and I loved his great rusty orange work on Manchester Street.

In January 2016 it was tagged and he has just returned to repaint it … I had seen the tag and then a few days later walked past as he was repainting it. (NOTE: If you are looking for it, it’s just around corner from New Regent Street, and a couple of blocks south of the magical Margaret Mahy playground)

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Christchurch has a long history of great art and artists, and since the seismic shaking over 5 years ago it has again embraced art and I will later blog some of the art around the city.

For more information on the artist see his Facebook page here

It seems the tagger has been identified – he was bragging about it on Facebook. Duh!

This is one of a series of blogs I’m writing on Christchurch  and how its emerging five years on from the 2010/11 quakes when it lost some 80%, yes eighty percent, of its inner city buildings- not because they fell down, but had to be demolished because of the damage – I will be writing about what it is now, not what was lost.

*See recent posts about the quakes – an elephant in the room and one about Christchurch as it is.

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Wharepuke. Eco-cottages I stayed at in Kerikeri, Northland

In Kerikeri, Northland earlier this year, for the first time in many years, I stayed in some delightful eco-cottages.

These stylish self-catering, eco cottages at Wharepuke are nestled in 2 hectares of gardens which were first planted by Robin Booth – starting 18 years ago  on bare land – and have been awarded the ‘garden of significance’ status . The cottages feature original fine art prints and paintings by resident artist, print-maker and tutor, Mark Graver who has his studio on the grounds too.

Wharepuke has solid green credentials and actions – they include:

  • the cottages are purposefully designed for energy conservation
  • they use available local goods and services
  • they use organic cleaners and products
  • they encourage the reuse of sheets and towels by guests to save water and products
  • they recycle any rubbish
  • they have their own sewerage system which bio-treats water and which ends up back on the garden
  • And, they offer local and organic food and drinks where possible

These cottages are peaceful to stay in, and as this a great wedding venue, I imagine both guests and brides love staying here – I know I did!  I also valued the little torch on the key-ring to lead me home through the subtropical bush late in the evening.

Another asset about this place is the restaurant set within the gardens. Food at Wharepuke is a fully licensed cafe and restaurant specialising in Thai-inspired and modern European food.

Judged the “Northland Cafe of the Year” I can vouch for the fabulous dishes produced by the Welsh chef Colin Ashton , and his staff. An advantage they have is their herbs are mostly all grown on site.  Interestingly, the restaurant was once army barracks and was trucked to the site. Even if you can’t stay at the cottages make sure you eat at the restaurant.

One of my food recommendations is the Thai Tasting Plate. Dishes I especially loved were the very tender squid, the raw fish, spring rolls and the lavash bread!

Mark Graver- the resident artist – is the author of the book Non-Toxic Printmaking. (A&C Black, London 2011) and tells me he had to self learn how to create non-toxic printmaking. He was awarded First Prize at the 2010 Lessedra World Art Print competition in Sofia, Bulgaria and has work in public and private collections worldwide.  See his website for details about his work and the workshops he gives.

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Singer Frankie Stevens signed the chair .. that I sat in for lunch. Only days earlier he had been MC at the concert in the Treaty Grounds I’d attended. (see an earlier blog post)
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Lush subtropical gardens
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a peaceful retreat
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YUM!
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Fabulous gardens
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Food at Wharepuke can be served indoors, on the deck, or here in the garden
Food at Wharepuke
Food at Wharepuke
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Mark Grover at work on his etching … water based inks on copper
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Thai tasting plate
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A saying to live by
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View from my cottage
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another view from my cottage

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Pianos and bulls: Te Papa, Wellington

Today I had a date with myself, a day off as the sun was shining and the waterfront magic. I also visited Te Papa Tongarewa, NZ’s national museum and a must see for all visitors to Wellington, NZ.

One of the exhibitions I saw was Micheal Parekowhai’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” which was first shown at the 2011 Venice Biennale. As I have said in an earlier blog ,it is different in this setting to the one I saw in Christchurch (NZ) one because its inside, and the other is it’s the first time they have been shown together in one space – I believe he wanted the pieces even closer together but this was not possible because of the weight of the bronze! Note; this is only on show until 23rd September 2012

I liked it better in Christchurch – see those photos here. (what do you think?)

Hannah Fraser accompanies singer Aroha White

Catherine McKay plays He Korero the piano which has been purchased by Te Papa. (she also played it in Venice)

 

Bronze bulls and cultural vandalism

Travelling from the 2011 Venice Biennale, on to Paris, then Christchurch and now, Wellington, New Zealand is Michael Parekowhai ‘s installation On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer .

The centrepiece of the installation is the bright red, carved, grand piano and I look forward to seeing it again in its new space at Te Papa – NZ’s national museum.  ( Te Papa has bought this part of the installation)

I saw the installation in Christchurch in June 2012 but will be sure to see it indoors here in my new city: I’m sure its surroundings make a difference.  When I saw it the bronze pianos and bulls were outside – in a patch of cleared rubble – there after buildings had been demolished following the city-destroying quake in February 2011. I loved the setting.  In Venice it was in a 15th century, Gothic palace.

Interestingly, or rather ironically, in Christchurch the piano, titled He Koreoro Purakau mo te Awanui o te Motu: story of a New Zealand river,  was inside a Christchurch  Art Gallery  “Outer Spaces”  space in the NG  building on Madras St.

This historic building, the old Bains warehouse, is one of very few left in the city after the quake and resulting demolitions in the inner city.  This repaired, safe building is scheduled to be demolished for a sports stadium: appalling cultural vandalism.

Jo Seagar’s cafe & cooking school: a great foodie destination

Lunch at Jo ‘easy peasy’ Seagar’s Cafe in Oxford is on most foodies “must do” list, and I’m thrilled to be taken there by one of the Look After Me hosts. A kiwi treasure, Jo Seagar is loved on TV and her cook books fly off the shelves.

 

The Cafe, Cook School and Kitchen Store thrives in this rural town – originally considered, by some, a strange choice when Jo relocated here some years ago she has proved all wrong: and as some-one who lived here for a couple of years as a child, to me  it seemed an unlikely place for her venture. My visit confirms I too was wrong – it also seems to be a stop-over on the Canterbury cyclists’ route

Jo and I are both trusty-worthy!

 

 

“Never trust a skinny cook” she tells us: I poke my nose into her class and watch as the lunch for the participants is plated up – then go back out to eat my own in the café.

The food is hearty and all the plates that are carried past us look tempting – it’s not far from Christchurch and I must go there again.

The café sits comfortably in its rural surroundings and the art on display (and for sale) of paintings of rural New Zealand line the walls: sheep, border collies, cattle, and barns. Well done Jo!

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