I live here by Alessia Belsito-Riera
Through a variety of mediums, the exhibition I Live Here by Pablos Art Studio artists presented at Enjoy Gallery from the 29th of April until the 24th of June sensitively portrays perspectives of living in the Wellington region that are rarely heard or seen.
Pablos Art Studio has been operating for over 30 years as a free-to-use community art studio in Te Aro. The space is intended as a place where the people of Pōneke can achieve mental wellbeing by affirming identity through art. “Many of the artists that use the studio live on the breadline and have experienced a great deal of stigmatisation and prejudice. These artists are tāngata mātau-ā-wheako, people who have lived experience of mental health, housing insecurity, incarceration, and homelessness”, Pablos tutor and exhibition curator Matt Gillies says. “Within their own lives and within the studio, they have developed inspirational resilience.”
The artists exhibiting their work in I Live Here all have distinct voices and diverse modes of expression, but they all see themselves in Wellington’s strenuous housing landscape. “They build a community across those differences. Each of these works carries the unique mark of its maker – they’re putting life back into homes”, Gillies continues. “As an antithesis to the grand scale, cheap and cheerful, and kitset living spaces the artists are surrounded by, the artworks they create are filled with personhood, identity, and value.”
Gillies explains that over the last few years, Pablos artists spoke increasingly about the housing crisis and their experience navigating this insecure system. 2020 was particularly trying but many Pablos artists have been struggling for lifetimes. “The work the artists have created for this show illustrates a human side to the value of housing that is outside of the media debate”, Gillies says. “It’s safe to say that none of the artists in this show have had a smooth ride with housing in Wellington. Despite that, they distil sensitivity and care from the subject.”
The art exhibited ranges from photography, paintings, and drawing to collage, sculpture, printmaking, and more. Ngata Reihana creates freehand optical art illusions and bird houses. Donna Jenkins’ intimate village made by mixing diorama, model, and assemblage reflects rural life. Rosemarie Bowers focuses on the passing of time, weaving together drawings of familiar and unfamiliar scenes from urban and suburban Wellington. The evocative paintings of Luke Sullivan capture both charm and challenge. Tzukeet Newman’s illustrations [pictured] make an accessible translation of immense complexity to palpable simplicity. Reece Tong’s paintings and sculptures capture Robert Scott’s architecture. James ‘Bing’ Taikato explores imaginary luxury homes against a backdrop of his haukāinga and maunga tupuna.
I Live Here provides a window into the homes of our community and a space in which to compare where you live now to where you once lived, your dream home to the often-frightening realities of today’s housing. “I would like people who visit the show to feel the connection offered through this universal human need”, Gillies says. “These artists are responding and reflecting to their environment and immediate surroundings, giving visitors a tangible window or link to their community and existence.”