What do you do?
I am Co-Director, along with my father Rob Gardiner, of The Chartwell Collection which is on long term loan to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The Chartwell Collection has permanently been in the care and use of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki since 1997, and our acquisitions are immediately available for curators to use in the public gallery space.
Why do you go to galleries?
I visit public and private art galleries because of a strong need for aesthetic experiences that enable me to think with my senses, imagine with my mind and feel with my body. Creative visual thinking is a powerful state for everyone to access and looking at artworks always delivers an astonishingly open and diverse range of ways to ‘be’ in the material world. As Rob has said, art galleries are gymnasiums for the mind, and so for me going to galleries is an act of exercising my visual senses and more.
What was the first artwork that made an impact on you?
I recently found some old sketchbooks that my sister Karen and I drew in while our parents made works in their studios. It’s possible these early drawing moments of ours were the most impactful for us growing up. To have the freedom to experience your own early art making rituals can foster and support the way you think about all art as you grow up. Artworks you see can then have more impact because you feel they are, in some undefinable way, part of a shared human experience.
Chartwell understands art as a source of learning about how we see, reflect, remember and create, in other words, how we think and live in the objective world. An art collection can offer these opportunities. Overall, it works best when it can promulgate and support thinking about art-making. We are keen for people to know more about making and viewing visual art works as ‘created objects’ – the materialization of thought itself, and the affects this activity has on participants and viewers. Works in the Collection can reveal the nature of creative thought by demonstrating the diverse ways we learn through our minds and bodies, and the materials of the world (a kind of thinking-with-matter) as they intersect and impact on each other. The Collection is one of Chartwell’s tools by which we seek to achieve these goals. More nuanced than a “Best Of” sort of collection, the Chartwell Collection endeavours to deepen this understanding of creative visual thinking for the benefit of all.
What is the most enigmatic work of art in your collection?
A work by Robert Jahnke in the Collection, Whenua Kore, 2019, that was featured in Nigel Borrell’s Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art in 2020-21. It was installed in the first room which was themed Te Kore – described as the empty faceless void, where time is suspended in unrealised potential. In that context, the neon work had a powerful resonance that highlighted the sense of mysterious possibility that exists for us all. Before words can be used to label and define, the work offered the chance to feel and sense the mysterious unknown, held in suspension just for a moment before unfolding and becoming a ‘something’.
If you could own any work of art, what would it be?
Our collecting is not for personal ownership. We are trustees of a charitable trust so the approach to acquisitions is different – one must think for the others who will benefit from the works when shown in the public space.
Tell us about a recent discovery?
It is exciting how the recent dialogue that is happening around ‘new materialism’ in art is adding value to understanding the collective purpose of the Chartwell Collection. In the Covid-era, it has become even more clear that Aotearoa New Zealand is the right environment to enquire deeply into this dialogue. It is a place where philosophers live, where makers create – fully aware of their sense-based experiences through close relationships with nature and with our own seeing/thinking/making worlds. Opening up to these experiences is why Chartwell recently started the Squiggla programme of judgement free mark making for all.