The New Plymouth Art Crawl Finale: The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

The grand finale to our art crawl of New Plymouth ends with the unmissable Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. By unmissable, we mean that you literally cannot miss the sight of the curved reflective walls of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre building. By unmissable, we also mean this is a free museum/art gallery from fascinating historic collections to bizarre kinetic contemporary art, so we have to check this out!

ROBIN’S TRANSFORMATION

On an unrelated note, that we are going to make seem related right now, Robin gets a haircut! He, himself, will become a piece of art to visit the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in style. (Was that “related” enough for you?)

You might remember Robin, a tall nerdy French guy with a haircut extremely neglected since we started travelling more than 40 days ago. When we met Shaun of Jetcharm Barber Shop a couple of nights ago at the Gallery at Jetcharm event, Shaun could tell straight away that Robin’s hair needed emergency treatment, he suggested he made an appointment with his best surgeon/barber. Alas, here we are at Jetcharm ready for Robin’s grand transformation.

Not only is Jetcharm the most stylish of stylish barbers we have ever set foot in, not only does it have its very own community art gallery, but it has some mean coffee and hot chocolate. We are well looked after in Jetcharm and Robin looks like a new stylish man that will fit right in with the art crowd of New Plymouth. What do you think? Leave your comments below!

Ever-changing exhibitions

Now Robin can feel the wind licking his scalp, we take a few steps down the road and around the corner and we are met with our own reflections in the mirror-like stainless steel exterior of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Kelly, who will be showing us around the art gallery today, finds us in the gift shop looking at all the cool little trinkets and books (some of which is included in our goody bag giveaway – see bottom of page for details). To get to the start of our gallery tour, we pass through a long corridor with the curved concrete interior – a chance to see how this amazing architecture looks on the inside. We begin our tour through Emanations: The Art of Cameraless Photography. The thing to note about the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is that exhibitions change three times a year. This leaves things fresh for the locals, but also us backpackers can literally be in for a surprise. We’re happy with that!

The exhibitions also incorporate the work of Len Lye, (this is the Len Lye Centre, after all), a New Zealand-born artist legend whose work we have already seen, the Wind Wand along the Coastal Walkway

Robin's scalp saying Robin's scalp saying "hi"!
Before and after. What do you think? Before and after. What do you think?
Look at THAT for a building Look at THAT for a building
Robin looking at the first photograph/photogliph to be printed in a book Robin looking at the first photograph/photogliph to be printed in a book

Cameraless photography

At first thought, we are scratching our heads at cameraless photography. In an age of Instagrammers and digital photography, where everyone is a photographer with their filters and hashtags, we are stumped if you take the camera out of the process of photography. But as soon as we take a look at the silhouettes of people, cassette tapes, ferns, flowers, clothing, bee wings, landfill sites and more, we realise this art uses light-sensitive photographic paper. Oh my God, remember that stuff? Dark rooms, cyanotype paper, developing photos… This was photography in its rawest sense, using the impression of objects on light-sensitive photographic paper.

More than 200 images using cameraless photography are on show at the gallery. A piece which stands out to us includes an electrically-charged plant that has created magnificent colours around the edges of the leaves. There’s Len Lye’s collection of cameraless photography portraits of people dear to him. What’s extremely cool is the collection of photogliphs from the 1800s, some of the first photography. We are fascinated by the first photograph to appear in a book!

Much of what we see is explained to us by the gallery staff, a feature we really dig about this art gallery. (Too many times we are wandering around galleries in a state of confusion). Knowledgeable art-buffs, who are either artists or studying art themselves, explain the work to visitors if they want it. Otherwise, every piece of art has an information board next to it.

For one exhibition, there are a lot of themes covered in a collection showcasing the evolution of cameraless photography. Kelly explains to us that visitors can even attend workshops based on the exhibitions, whether it is making your own art or getting some insights from talks.

Four Fountains

Down the final hallway of the Govett-Brewster Gallery, we can’t help but notice the long line of shadows moving back and forth along the curved walls, or the fact that there is a sound of, what Laura thinks, is whipping bamboo sticks together. On the other hand, Robin reckons it’s a giant octopus slamming some Chinese chop sticks together in preparation to eat us…

Around the corner, the Len Lye’s Four Fountains are revealed! These are “fountains” of metal rods bunched together and swaying around in unison, hitting each other to make a snapping noise before moving in the opposite direction. The shadows cast around the room are amazing to see, especially as each fountain increases in size. If the giant Wind Wand we saw on the Coastal Walkway wasn’t enough, this kinetic exhibition right here is what the fuss is all about with Len Lye. The dude is like a Swiss army knife of art and the reason such a diverse centre has been built around his work: from showcasing his films, his photographs, his poems and his kinetic sculptures.

We leave the art gallery pretty buzzing by this whole New Plymouth art experience we never would have guessed we would have had in New Zealand. Sure, we have visited New Zealand’s cities with an art reputation in the past, such as Wellington and Christchurch, but New Plymouth surely has to be dubbed the “Art Capital of New Zealand”. In honour of that and the fact that all backpackers like free stuff, we’re giving away a Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre goody bag. See at the bottom for details!

Tomorrow, we’re heading on a trip to Back Beach and Paritutu Rock. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Take a look around the Len Lye Centre
Take a look around the Len Lye Centre Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Giveaway info!

We were given two awesome arty goody bags at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, so we’re giving one away! Just comment on this Facebook post, with a cool piece of art that you’ve found in New Zealand to be put in the draw. The winner will be announced by the end of the week by being contacted on Facebook.

Legal bit: The giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

We’re always here to give more! Check out these articles to tickle your backpack straps:

Plus, join us on HerePin for local recommendations and good times.

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