Busted: Auckland & Black Asterisk – Part 1


In 2019 ARTbop undertook its first Busted to see the work of Murray Cammick at Black Asterisk Gallery in Ponsonby, Auckland.   Busted? Galleries, events and exhibitions ARTbop can visit using public transport.

I’ve cleared the ice off my car; put my overstuffed backpack on the back seat and started my adventure to Auckland.   There’s just enough traffic for its size on SH2 the Tauranga West Road at 6.30am on a clear, cold June morning.   The right-hand rear trailer light is out on the vehicle ahead of me.

I park in a downtown Tauranga parking building. A roading worker from a cluster of bright hi viz vests wishes me good morning.   The sky is a watercolour pink.

I sit in the warmth of The Dry Dock café eat a bacon and egg cup and sip hot chocolate. Outside the Tauranga City Library I ask the driver of the local bus if I could have caught it up here – “no you can’t rely on it getting here to catch the intercity bus because of the traffic on SH2”. The passenger, who last week told me not to sit upstairs, “it sways”, has already settled into his seat. I sit downstairs.

The double decker bus to Auckland is cold – freezing (later when we tell the driver the bus is freezing he turns on the heater and nothing happens). I’m wearing the equivalent of a WWII army greatcoat, hat, gloves and scarf but my feet are cold on the freezing floor. You couldn’t say the bus is immaculately clean but it is reasonably clean. And the discomfort is eliminated by the early morning Bay of Plenty.  

There is a tissue paper white moon over the inner harbour. We cruise in and out of Bethlehem over a black glass Wairoa River and through the Te Puna roundabout. There’s frost and lichen – picture postcard stuff. Fences stand out like teeth. Big houses loom. Smoke straggles. There’s an Elliot Mason skyline.   Past The Arts Junction and through Katikati and a single brave soul in the lit café window. Waihi is beautiful in the early morning.  

At 9.05am we make the middle of the Karangahake Gorge a place of light and shade. Mist steams on the water and the bus window is freezing. We skirt Paeroa, go past the racecourse and start the journey to Thames along the back road. The hedgecutters been around creating rural neatness. There’s a ute with a load of hay, a helicopter above and a camper van.

We stop at Thames. I take a photo of Sir Keith Park. I take a photo of the bus. I take a photo of the multi-purpose war memorial building. I decline one of the bus driver’s offers to take my photo standing next to Keith Park. It’s still cold.   We glide through the pre-Auckland countryside. They’re still digging up the motorway at Takanini but we get to the Hobson Street bus terminal with unexpected ease. I’m told it’s been “a magnificent run”.  

I see two homeless people on my walk from Hobson Street to the Auckland City Art Gallery.   This Gallery is not the gallery of my childhood it’s bigger, it’s different, it’s wonderful and amazing.  

My New Zealand passport gives me a generally free entry. I leave my little backpack at the door and wristband on look for the café. That too is different, maybe not bigger, maybe not better but different and also just wonderful. I’ve been trapped on the bus since before 8am. I have Quiche, a small cake and beautiful New Zealand grown tea. I sit amongst workers and phone readers. I follow social ritual and check the screen. There is a homeless man ensconced on the steps to Albert Park. He has created a protective nest with umbrellas.

I’m almost overwhelmed by coming back to this place I’ve spent so much of my time in. Often when I’ve told people I had a privileged childhood I see small twitches of a patronizing smile start.  But I lived within walking distance of Central Auckland, the Domain, the Museum, the Art Gallery, the big Library and Albert Park.

Down Mountain Road, over Khyber Pass, up past the Domain and the Hospital, across Grafton Bridge and down Symonds Street. Sliding by the Technical Institute and into the Library or the Art Gallery.   Sometimes I’d take the long way through Parnell or walk right up Khyber Pass and all the way down Symonds Street or Upper Queen Street past my favourite block of shops. Right up Karangahape Road past Rendells and the fabric shop past the fruit shop and the strip clubs right up to Ponsonby Road.  

I see there is a major Frances Hodgkins exhibition on. I’ll think about that. I want to see Pacific Sisters. I don’t understand the disco themed exhibition downstairs. I examine Guerilla Girls and add my comment to the dusty blackboard.

There’s a series of blackboards on which to write an answer to “I’m not a feminist but if I was, this what I would complain about”

I suffer a social guilt moment when I think about explaining why I didn’t bother to see Frances Hodgkins’ exhibition. So I buy a ticket and go.

I have a dusty sepia toned Hodgkins print of a mother holding her baby. I bought it with some money my father gave me when I did something or other academic.   I still love it.   I didn’t really like the Hodgkins exhibition. The image which had the most impact on me was “Refugee Children 1916”. “Hodgkins records the children’s isolation brought on by a strange location and their inability to communicate….” The look on the children’s faces is contemporary.

I go into the gallery area where the Charles Goldie portraits of Maori are juxtaposed against contemporary art.   I meet one of the women from my te reo Maori class with her family.  

My hotel is described as “budget” but it’s in the centre of Downtown Auckland and it’s clean and tidy and the staff are polite and welcoming. It’s incredibly busy as are the Auckland pavements. I avoid the scooters and the pedestrians as I walk High Street and Lorne Street’s narrow pavements. I peer through the window of Gow Langsford Gallery.   I check out the street style. Hungry – there are now supermarkets in the City Centre but you’ll find a zillion varieties of takeaway. There was a specialist vegan food source right next door.   While I was out looking for dinner I decided to observe the Britomart Station “rush hour” – it was like lemmings over the cliff.   A fast-moving steady stream of travelers – you could have been in London or Sydney.

I slept like a log even though my room faced Albert Street and the interminable transport network building. It was interesting peering down into the early morning work site.    I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast.   I couldn’t keep away from the Auckland Art Gallery and went back for a second visit leaving my little backpack in the care of the hotel and yes in Part II I walk up the hill to Black Asterisk.

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


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Rotorua+Hamilton+Taupo+Tauranga:- Mature professional visual artist and arts educator is available for house sitting from 01st February 2020.   Non-smoking, non-drinking. Experienced former home-owner, gardener and small pet owner.        Contact: miriam.ruberl@gmail.com



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Walk Mauao

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Visit The People’s Gallery at the Historic Village

Okorore at the Historic Village

Meet Cindy of Cindy Lou Vintage Snodgrass Road Te Puna

Visit The Elms

Check out The Incubator Creative Hub

Catch a cake at Love Rosie

Visit The Art Lounge in Willow Street

Boutique recycle to support the work of Turning Point Trust. Last Sunday of the month at the Historic Village 9am to 12noon. Cash only.

Walk the Puketoki Reserve

Check out the Morrinsville Country Market

Check out the beautiful artisan craftsmanship of Barb Hudson of Barisa at Atrium Gallery, Whakamarama.

Catch a jam session at The Black Sheep Whakamarama

Comvita Honey products at Paengaroa

Mauao the ubiquitous guardian of Pilot Bay the quiet side of the ocean

Weekly Sunday market at Waihi Beach

 The Arts Junction at Katikati









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