The writer travelled to Whanganui to meet with artists and gallerists and report on the town’s active art scene (p.64).
You travelled to Whanganui for this issue. What did you find? An alternative to art-city life, and a high-functioning one at that. We’re unusually blessed with our provincial art infrastructure – places like Whanganui, New Plymouth, Nelson. It’s one of those strange legacies of the colonial era, when galleries and museums were built in what were often pretty wealthy communities. It’s nice to see the contemporary scene starting to embrace this.
Can you be an artist in our cities now? It’s the ‘million-dollar question’, right? Honestly, it’s pretty bloody difficult. I especially feel for art students – young people have a right to live in cities so they can find themselves, and their peers. When our makers and creators can’t afford to be in our cities, our collective cultural life really suffers.
What was the last piece of art you bought and why did you buy it? The last thing I got was a little work by Shane Cotton. Shane and I worked pretty intensely together while I was writing about him for my book This Model World. The things I have on my walls are mostly mementos of close friendships and working relationships like this.
Tell us about your residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. I’m working on a new book about a relationship Billy Apple had with a brilliant young novelist called Ann Quin, when he was at London’s Royal College of Art – the scene they were part of, and how it changed the direction of British art. It’s a very different research process from my last book – lots of time in archives, lots of reading. The residency is amazing for that: I can shut the door, put my head down, and just get on with it.