Uptown Art Scene

I recently asked local artists Gavin Hurley and Sam Mitchell (current Artist in Residence at Whanganui) about their ongoing collaborations and current show at Melanie Roger Gallery in Jervois Road.


You were at Elam at the same time, is that where you two met, and was it an instant ‘meeting of the minds’?

Gavin: I did meet Sam at Elam, her work was weird.

Sam: I was a mature student when I went to Elam. I knew Gavin’s work: He was a “Serious Oil Painter” doing Lempicka-style portraits. I became the “Drinks Gal” at Anna Bibby Gallery; Gavin showed with her and that is how the friendship took off.

Is there a strong collaborative method for your combined shows?

Gavin: we began collaborations with chats and beers...It is hard giving control away but I love the surprise of the end result.

Sam: Gavin’s work is meticulous - everything ordered. My work is rolling chaos and when he delivers one of his works to me, I feel like a teenager with a sharpie behind the bike shed, no clean surface is safe!

Can you tell us a little about your latest show at Melanie Roger Gallery in Jervois Road?

Sam: Over beers, the show conversation started with, what would the ‘first New Zealanders’ be like before the Maori. This was our starting point. Skulls was my response and I am in the skull zone with my work now so, skulls, there will be some skulls on show at Melanie Roger Gallery.

The head is central to your work - what fascinates you with it?

Gavin: Since making paper collage portraits over the past five years or so, it has been a progressive reduction. Some now have a Groucho Marx mask-like feel: glasses, moustache, with a triangle nose. I still love that simplicity with personality recognition.

Sam: My earlier portraits where based loosely on the tattoo selections that people make. The viewer has to build the narrative based on these preconceived loaded representations, a bit like religious iconography.

What are your favourite uptown haunts?

Gavin: Markets and second-hand book shops are my favourite haunts, rummaging through other people’s old family photos and possessions.

Sam: K’Road is my favourite haunt, St Kevin’s Arcade, Alleluya. Many afternoon beer chats have taken place there and may it continue!