A little something about Sam

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved drawing and crafting. When the opportunity to study art at the Southern Institute of Technology came about I seized it - perfect really, having moved a couple of years earlier to Southland from Christchurch with my husband and family. I vividly remember saying “I’ll just do a year and develop my artistic skills a bit”. Three years and a bachelor’s degree later, I was caught up in an exciting new adventure. 

During this time in Invercargill I discovered the IPAG in Don Street. I had to walk past the gallery most days on my way home, so of course there were a few days where I was a little later home than intended. I just loved visiting the gallery, the staff and of course the wonderful collection and exhibitions they held – Oh what a place to work I thought!

I was also in close proximity to the Invercargill City Library and Archives and spent quite a bit of time there studying. Having gained a bookbinding trade while living in Christchurch, I was able to put this to good use when I decided to volunteer at the Library making archival enclosures (fancy boxes). It was here that Loren Baxter (the then Assistant Project Registrar at IPAG) noticed my attention to detail and handy practical skills. I was soon volunteering for both the Library and IPAG learning about collection care and Invercargill’s amazing collection of art. This helped me rediscover a passion for museum practice I had left mostly by the wayside.

Now working for IPAG I feel incredibly lucky to be part of a great team in an industry I had only ever dreamed of being able to enter, as I chose trade training over university when I left school. I am very much looking forward to the next few months and hopefully soon we will be in our new space. 

When not working or volunteering I am often busy with books, craft, artwork and my two children. My love of reading and creating having been successfully passed onto my children – this does however mean that we live in a constant whirl of almost finished projects. When not working on these various pastimes, I enjoy time mucking about with my horses which I share with my Mum and more recently the children too.

Although my first month at IPAG has been unconventional by new job standards, it has been a challenge I have readily embraced. Like many people currently, we at IPAG are working from home - something that recent study and bookbinding from home has left me well set up for. I must admit though getting back into the office and continuing to work with the collection and wider team will be really great - What a very strange but exciting time in my career in the arts!

Sam Chandler

Assistant Curator / Administrator

The Three Horsemen - Blog by Sam

Three Horsemen; Unknown; Undated; Cat# 273

I first saw this work in the Untitled, Undated, Unknown exhibition at IPAG’s Don Street gallery. The shroud of mystery that surrounded all works in this show was intriguing to start with, but this painting in particular hooked me. First off, I am a sucker for anything horse related, but the mirrored behaviour of horse and rider in this image really pulled me in – there must be more of a story here!

The subject matter is simple at first glance. In the foreground are three horses and their riders slightly off centre. Looking closely to the indistinct and rather atmospheric background, there appears to be an orderly line of cavalrymen marching away into the distance. The background is filled with what looks to be smoke and several of the figures are holding guns which makes me think they are taking part in a war. 

Focusing in on the two figures closest to the viewer, I notice they are in deep and reasonably intense conversation – even their horses seem to mirror their riders expressions. What are they talking about? Is it simply personal gossip, or something more serious and related to the events going on in the rest of the image? Being a horse owner myself, I have often come across the saying “your horse is your mirror” and it is nearly always true. Here in this artwork the expressions and conversation is not just between the men, but between their horses too. I wonder if they are talking about the same thing? 

Although I still have so many questions about the subject matter, I am also intrigued in why the work does not have a signature or date. Maybe the painting is unfinished; or the artist wanted it to be a secret; or perhaps they just forgot to sign it in the end? I do wonder if there is anyone out there who might know more?

Checking on the store room a few weeks back and seeing the painting again confirmed that everything about this artwork is a great mystery to me. But it will continue to call me back time and time again - and each time I am sure I will see something else that makes me want to know more! 

Sam Chandler

Assistant Curator / Administrator

Wrapping up 2019...

2019 has been a huge year for team IPAG!
It’s hard to believe that only 12 short months ago we were packing up our beloved gallery space at 5 Don Street and shifting over the road to the Invercargill City Library and Archives. We thought we were going to be short-term tenants in our new home, but as our one year anniversary approaches, it’s fair to say we have been here a little longer than expected!
With this in mind, we would like to thank the library staff for taking us in and doing all they could to make us feel welcome. They have shared their spaces with us without hesitation, put up with our somewhat cheeky sense of humour and accompanying loud laughter and most importantly, given us free reign to decorate their new walls with our beautiful collection. Allowing the public to still access these works during our closure has meant the world to us.
Throughout 2019, our primary focus has undoubtedly been the development of our new collaborative transitional space with the Southland Museum and Art Gallery at 42 Kelvin Street. There is so much that could be said about this project, but for us, what stands out the most is the relationships. Although always collegial, IPAG and SMAG have historically worked in silos, separated from each other. Being involved in the coming together of our two groups for the greater good of both the community and the sector has been a highlight of 2019. Likewise, the relationships that we have developed with local Iwi and Mīharo as part of this project have been invaluable to us.
The power and importance of these combined relationships was best illustrated for us at this year’s Hui-ā-Iwi. Te manu tītī, te manawa o te tangata was just a taster of what the future holds, and we can’t wait to share the rest with you when we open our collaborative space in 2020.
Whilst busy with the above, IPAG has continued to work behind the scenes over the last year to ensure the safety of our collection. We finished the move from Anderson House in April and have since been working on our works on paper collection with paper conservator Marion Mertens. Knowing our collection is safely tucked into its new home for the foreseeable future is a huge weight off our shoulders and a wonderful way to round out 2019.
2020 is going to be an even bigger year, and we cannot wait to usher it in and get cracking. For now though, we would like to thank all our colleagues, funders, friends, and followers for their continued support over the last year.
We wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Years with your loved ones.



Look Mum, Maybe I do have a Talent

In the last few months I have discovered I have a new skill. Thanks to my copyright work I have learnt that I am creepily good at tracking down artists or their estates; a born detective. I don’t want to call it stalking but effectively, online stalking has been my mode of operation. I scour the web hunting for any snippet of information relating to the artist in question and try to paint a better picture of their life.

Unfortunately I had no budget to operate on so I couldn’t buy copies of wills or death certificates to locate more information. All I had was me and my computer. The more I made like Alice and followed the White Rabbit down numerous rabbit holes, the more useful outlets I found. Eventually I was delving through cemetery records, Facebook profiles, newspaper articles, dealer galleries, art gallery websites, online collections, Wikipedia, Te Ara Encyclopedia online, obituaries, and the physical backs of the artworks in our collection. Unfortunately the Cheshire Cat was not stumbled upon. I feel that he would have provided me with a whole new angle upon the situation, or confused me entirely, as if I was not confused enough following endless Smith surnames.

Alice in Wonderland aside, I was often reaching out to people explaining who I am, what my project was and asking if they are in fact who I think they are. Sometimes I was taking a stab in the dark, however, these stabs in the dark definitely paid off. As weeks passed many of the people I reached out to replied and most of them were correct. They were in fact the artist, who has now relocated to the UK or the children of, or the estate holder for the artist I was investigating.  Suddenly it became very exciting getting emails and Facebook messages. Each time I could see it was a reply from a source I had spent time and energy tracking down I became eager to see if I had solved the case.

Most people who I have struck up random conversation with are interested in my project and are very lovely. If they are able to put me in touch with a better informed person in their family, they do, or if they have the information in their own head they often, without prompt, shared their stories and appropriate contact information with me so I can send the updated copyright agreement to them in due course.

For example, one morning I was at work alone and the phone rang. On the other end of the line was a much older gentleman. Immediately I assumed he was ringing the old library phone number and all he wanted was some books renewed, as this happens to us on our office phone frequently. However, I soon realised he was calling for me thanks to a relation passing on my details. He was ringing about artwork by his father and informed me that he and his brother are the estate holders, but his brother isn’t at all interested in dealing with it, so I was to deal with him. That morning I had a lovely chat on the phone to this 95 year old man who gave me a wonderful insight into the type of person his father was and all about where his works have been exhibited. It is the outcomes like this that really make the work worthwhile.

Sadly, every great project has some difficult parts. In terms of copyright this comes in the form of death. Due to the age of our collection, and a large proportion of it being collected during the 70s, a lot of artists have died recently. Often I think I’m right on track to contact someone just to find out they passed away last year and I just missed them.  Just a few weeks ago one very talented artist, by the name of Llew Summers, passed on. The letter I was creating at the exact same time will now never make it to him. On another instance, I discovered that a copyright permission we hold which was signed in 2012 was probably the last that artist ever signed, as he died just a week later. These discoveries are tough. They gave me constant reality checks and made me go home to my family and tell them how much I love them. What kept me going and positive is knowing that any contact I make with people is for the longevity, exposure and benefit of our collection. The positives are worth it. Hopefully, within the next month, I will be extremely excited to receive the mail, as replies start to come in from the copyright letters I am due to send out. Too bad our mail delivering caretaker is called Pete and not Pat, as in my childish investigative glee I can almost guarantee I will want to sing “Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat”.

Loren Baxter
Assistant Project Registrar

Its been a long time coming...

That’s why I jumped in the car and drove for two and a half hours to the IPAG annual general meeting back in early June, to hear for myself about the new and strong collaboration in the Southland public art world.

I’d even heard, praise be, about work going on to set up a big shared display space in central Invercargill.

[A bit of boring history: I re-joined the Anderson Park Art Gallery Society when I returned home to the south in the 1970s, after several years away. I was elected to the council. Who wasn’t, in those days? I was also elected to the Invercargill City Council in 1977 and was appointed to the Southland Museum Trust Board. This gave me a governance role for both the city’s art galleries and I was quickly convinced that running them separately was, by and large, pretty dumb.]

I know there are members who yearn for the old days at Anderson House. I’m one of them. I was there from opening day in the early 1950s. Michele and I even lived there for a while when the society had no live-in caretakers.

I loved the architectural and parkland setting and how it could glow with good art, good exhibitions and musical events, and I loved how the collection grew in scale, modernity and quality. My years as president through the ‘80s were some of the best in my life.

We knew there were insuperables: storage, work space, climate control, security, wall space, and distance from the city. That last one was not a problem for those who loved the house, the park and the sheer joy of driving out there.

But the Anderson Park collection was never built up for an elite. It needed and deserved to be accessible to everyone in Invercargill, everyone in Southland for that matter. It needed to be a daily possibility for families, schools; for the young and the old…..and that meant Don or Kelvin Street, not McIvor Road, Waikiwi.

That those unsurmountable issues are being resolved, by two public collections confronting their homelessness by working together, at last, was what took me to the AGM in June.

What a joy it was to see the professionals from SMAG and IPAG standing together, speaking about their shared work and vision, about how the shared exhibition space in Kelvin Street would look and work. It was so good to hear how, at the public library’s archive, the IPAG collection was being cared for, repaired, and readied for re-emergence into public view in a central and accessible space.

Awhi Rito is a wonderful project, overseen by a project team made up of governance reps from both IPAG and SMAG. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Alf Poole, Russell Beck, John Husband and I talked about in the mid-1980s. We never got close to making it happen. It took fear of earthquakes and our not very resilient buildings to do that….and staff and board members enthusiastic about collaboration and sharing expertise. Bless them all!

I drove home to Dunedin after the AGM feeling very good about the future of public art in Invercargill. I even dared to see Kelvin Street as a step towards a new, purpose-built arts centre in central Invercargill….and to see a role for Anderson House as an adjunct exhibition space at some future time. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Michael Deaker
IPAG Patron