The last weekend in March and the first weekend in April saw the return of Artists Open Studios, a highlight of the Whanganui artistic calendar during which local artists open their studios to members of the public. This year almost eighty studios and over a hundred artists participated, so I was rather glad when the Significant Other (who hadn’t ‘done’ AOS before) went through the artists catalogue and highlighted a dozen studios which particularly interested him, as it spared me the agony of trying to decide. I did, however, insist on a visit to the studio of my favourite local artist, Tina Drayton.
The Whanganui art scene is eclectic and diverse, but it’s also refreshingly down-to-earth and free of pretention. Very few artists are trying to make the kind of ‘clever’ modern art which so disappointed both the Significant Other and I when we explored a sculpture trail near Auckland over new year’s. Our local artists are a group of people who are passionate about what they love, and would ideally like to make enough money to survive, please.
The result is a fantastic selection of art which ranges from the beautiful to the hilarious to the playful to the practical to the macabre, and anything else you care to think of. We visited ten studios all up, and in addition to painting in a variety of styles were treated to glass beadwork jewellery, photography, ‘reclaimed’ art (‘Saws like an Eagle’ – it’s an eagle made of old saws!), pottery, sculpture in a variety of media, and gorgeous carved wooden furniture.
This last, by Greg Betts at Bricksticks Furniture, was a particular delight for me. My father’s hobby, until age limited the use of his hands, was carpentry, and I’m determined to take him along sometime to see Betts’ work for himself. And the setting – combined workshops and gallery – was likewise spectacular, being centred around the ruins of the old Wanganui brickworks.
If you are in New Zealand, or if you’re planning to be, and if you have even a vague interest in contemporary art, Whanganui Artists Open Studios is a must.