My ART | Collectors: Sarah Smuts-Kennedy & Hamish Coney

Collectors: Sarah Smuts-Kennedy & Hamish Coney

Collectors: Sarah Smuts-Kennedy & Hamish Coney

What do you do?

I am an artist. My work/life  centres around practicing ways to flow alongside and within syntropic energy systems–the systems that nurture and support life. This can look like a drawing/painting practice, a gardening practice or social sculpture. Having fun, feeling peaceful and eating from a radiant garden are great ways to figure out if I am on track.

Hamish is a writer who also has a consultancy business. He has been a collector of art magazines, books and art work since he was a very young boy. Part of our love language includes sharing a love of art. I love reading his writing which I feel is the most pure expression of him.

What was the first artwork that made an impact on you?

Perhaps not the first work that made an impact but a painting by Eva Hesse, No Title (1963) is the one that has had the most influence on me since I stood in front of it at the NGV in Melbourne 15 years ago. I have spent the past decade summoning up the courage to make marks in a way that impacts in the way I that felt this work does.

If you could own any work of art, what would it be?

When Hamish was the Managing Director of Art and Object (2007 – 2018) I got to be around a few early gestural  Milan Mrkusich’s from the early 1960s which I really wished I could have taken home to live with.

What is the most enigmatic work of art in your collection?

Anoushka Akel’s Purple Prose which she showed in Biographies of Transition: Too Busy To Think at Artspace Aotearoa in 2017.  It has so much to teach me. Its scared and brave all at once and you can sense it flowed out of Anoushka almost without her knowing how or why.

Tell us about the one that got away?

Hamish is very taken with the work of Ella Sutherland and hopes that one day the right work for us will appear.

Tell us about a recent discovery?

We have recently acquired a work by Tia Ranginui from Laree Payne in Hamilton – from her series The intellectual ‘Wealth’ of a savage mind which now hangs alongside works by Gil Hanly, Stella Corkery, Marie Shannon, David Noonan and Jeffrey Harris. This work has transformed the space which we now know was just waiting for this artwork to arrive.

Why collect?

Sometimes as an artist you forget the ongoing impact your work has after its been made. I can sometimes question the point of making work. Collecting is the moment I remember again that this practice is not just for me. It’s an emergent process that will gift a living field into the life of others. Over lockdown we hung two works by Dan Arps and Tia Ranginui that have contributed so much to our living spaces and have had quite an impact on the feeling in the rooms they hang in. This is why I make work. To contribute in this manner. If I didn’t collect myself I would not get to experience this phenomena in this powerful way.

Gift any work of art to your local museum – what would it be?

I recently inherited a work by Pine Taiapa (Ngati Porou), a carved tekoteko figure from my father who passed away late last year. It’s a piece that was gifted to my grandfather by his brother, my great uncle. It was gifted to my great uncle by Pine Taiapa as an acknowledgement of his support and friendship in Tokomaru Bay and is signed and dated by him. My father loved it very much and enjoyed talking about it with Hamish who has become obsessed himself with Maori taonga, and in particular whakairo. Hamish has been learning Te Reo since 2019 as part of his enquiry into the relationship photography and whakairo, particularly in the mid to late 19th century. His first book was published by Rim Books Hinemihi: Te Hokinga – The Return in 2020 between lock downs.

I made a promise when I inherited this work that if there was no one in our family that would care for it after me I would gift it to a museum. These treasures have a life force that is meant to be in the presence of humans.

Share a recipe or secret from your lockdown kitchen?

Lockdown has been tricky this time for us. It has taken the wind out of our sails as so many of our projects for the year were meant to be in September. My solo exhibition Joy Field with Sumer in Tauranga and a studio/garden event for the McCahon House Museum benefactors here at our home are pushed back. Hamish is working with the Artspace Aotearoa team to ensure the exhibition and fundraiser When the Dust Settles showcasing 34 artists that have shown at Artspace over last 34 years can be a success in either a digital space or an actual space. So the best secret we have to staying positive and calm is that we try and play together during the day as much as possible. This includes table tennis which we have in the centre of our living room and going on bike rides around the peninsula where we live. We always have loads of gardening work to do. Last lock down occurred when all our fruit needed preserving. We are really happy we don’t need to use this lock down to preserve tens of kilos of peaches, nectarines and plums – we are still eating last year’s harvest. However I do make a pretty good gluten free lemon cake and Hamish has had a go at what he calls his ‘technically biscuits’.

September 2021.

Image: Sam Hartnett