Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga: sharing the dream: Sara Hughes


The specifically commissioned installation by Auckland-based artist Sara Hughes in the Atrium of the Tauranga Art Gallery initially seems spare, almost austere compared with the richly coloured images of Paradox it replaces. Hughes’ work is just one of a number of self-contained exhibitions currently showing at the Gallery.

Willow: An installation by Sara Hughes is “named after the street that separates, and connects, Tauranga Art Gallery with the council buildings opposite…..”

One of the first things I noticed in the Library and Council administration precinct was the incorporation of older stained glass windows. Their retention meant to me that the building they had originally been part of was held in a place of importance to the then local community. I’ve since found out they were part of the Tauranga Town Hall – a much-loved performance venue. As I walk up the Library stairs to the reference and New Zealand sections I still enjoy the glass and the tukutuku.

And there are the stained glass windows outlined on the Atrium wall. There are shapes and letters – they are attached not painted directly on to the wall.

There are two other components in Hughes’ work. The Gallery’s external windows to Willow Street are covered in Mondrian-style coloured shapes – a cityscape subdivision of jewel colours. The changing light changes the depth and intensity of the colours and patterns.

On the Atrium floor is the largest set of wooden building blocks I’ve seen – at the opening, despite parental admonitions, there are intermittent bangs and clacks as constructions bite the dust. The blocks allow anyone to create their own structures and interpretation of the area. Hughes says “I have a deep interest in the ways that art can interact and engage with site and add to people’s experience of place. Over the past fifteen years I have focused on working in site-specific contexts and examining the way people relate to art in their environment.”

It’s the 10th Anniversary year of the Gallery and the well-produced souvenir programme notes Hughes’ Atrium installation “is the inaugural project of the 500 Club, a group of like-minded arts patrons who each donate $500 towards the realisation of a specific Tauranga Art Gallery exhibition.”

It’s encouraging to see the many efforts made by the Gallery to expand its funding and support base. Here at ARTbop while we’ve often been dismayed by the on-going negativity towards creativity and arts organisations (and a museum) from some quarters; we have always appreciated the continuing support from professional and commercial organisations to all aspects of the arts. So ARTbop thanks all of you who have contributed to our enjoyment of Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.

Sponsoring law firm Cooney Lees Morgan

The formal opening of the exhibition is crowded. Having regularly been to exhibition openings for ARTbop it’s a personal delight to see the faces of strangers, younger people a crowd representing the changing age and ethnic demographic of Tauranga and the Western Bays.

It’s also great to see former Gallery Director Penelope Jackson in the audience. Penny has curated an exhibition of works donated to the Gallery. The Gallery has Jackson’s best-selling book “Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters” for sale.

I’ve positioned myself on the bench under the main Gallery stairs. The ground-level platform holding the collection of wooden building blocks has been pushed to the rear wall of this area and is surrounded by children and young people who’ve been creating shapes and structures since the opening commenced.

When we’re called to attention one or two parents come down and hiss at the children to move away from this tempting activity or tell them in no uncertain terms to be quiet. With the predictability of youth some of the previously constructed edifices, for no apparent reason, collapse. Parental black looks flash across me to the incredibly well-behaved group. After the second or third noise interruption one child is made to leave the area. It’s only afterwards that I think how appropriate these random acts of destruction are – look around Downtown Tauranga and Willow Street – there’s been death, destruction and construction.

Two of the artists speak Sara Hughes and Todd Couper (whose exhibition we will review separately) Their artist’s talk are individual and insightful. In both instances the impact of upbringing, family and background are referenced.

At the conclusion of her talk, Sara Hughes stands in front of me She’s tall, has her long tightly curled hair bunched at her neck and is bohemianly stylish in black. I have to suppress a desire to find out where she bought her shoes from. And, I think this is one of the great advantages of the openness of the Gallery and the arts community – accessibility irrespective of wealth, position or title.

At the conclusion of his artist’s talk, Todd Couper, whose stunning carved work forms the basis of the exhibition Toi Mauri: Contemporary Maori Carving joins his mother and younger family member in a waiata acknowledging his Ngati Kahungunu affiliation. It’s simple and melodic and takes me back to the pre-theatrical time of my kapa haka participation.

It may be trite but there’s “something for everyone” currently showing in the individual exhibition areas of the Gallery.

Willow: an Installation by Sara Hughes 1 July – 1 October 2017



This major project invites visitors of all ages to interact with the elements of the work…”

Generosity: Gifts for the Gallery – 1 July 0 17 September 2017

The exhibition features works that explore the relationships with significant individuals and personalities who have helped to build the Tauranga Art Gallery collection ….” Curated by former Gallery Director Penelope Jackson

The 80s Show 1 July-27 August 2017

A selection of artworks sharing some of the high points in our cultural history..”

Toi Mauri: Contemporary Maori Carving by Todd Couper 1 July – 10 September 2017

…the first survey exhibition over the past 15 years of the impressive career of Tauranga-based contemporary Maori artist Todd Couper…”

Jae Kang: Waves of Your Breath 1 July – 29 October 2017

Auckland-based, Korean artist, Jae Kang has made a large scale site-specific drawing on the walls of our gallery stairwell.”

Insert Coin- Kereama Taepa 1 July 2017 – January 2018

Commissioned for the Gallery’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, Papamoa-based artist Kereama Taepa has created one of his unique graphic mash-ups inside the Tauranga Art Gallery lift.”

The programme also contains details of exhibitions commencing in September 2017.

ARTbop intends to publish individual reviews of each of the exhibitions currently showing in the Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga.

Getting ready!

Yes it’s as high as this!


Peering through the window at the almost completed exhibition!

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current 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.


WHILE YOU’RE HERE – check out the recent article “New beginnings for historic Artmarket” by Katikati artist Birgitt Shannon about the Artmarket gallery in Waihi.   Situated in an historic building in the centre of the old goldmining centre of Waihi, on the road between Auckland and Tauranga Waihi it’s worth a visit to see locally created art

The Artmarket, Waihi – not to be missed ….


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