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Published: 29 April 2023

By Andy Ross

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An art opening in Mawhera Greymouth

Every small town in Aotearoa New Zealand seems to have a gallery and a museum, and Greymouth is no exception. 

Although The History House Museum is currently operating at a much reduced capacity, having moved because its old home is an earthquake risk, the Left Bank Gallery is alive and well. The Gallery is housed in an old bank, hence the name, and is sited along the river, hence the pun. As trustees of the Gallery, we often pop in for a chat with the volunteers who staff the front desk, and the director and secretary who often work on the middle desk in the exhibition space as people drift in and out to look at the show. It is a friendly place and it is lovely to have a gallery like ours within easy reach. On opening nights - most Gallery exhibitions have one - we can walk into town, stop in at a local eatery for a glass of wine and a bowl of chips, and then head to the event. It is an occasion to dress-up in jackets and, once, a tie. The West Coast is casual in its dress - sometime shoes are optional, even for adults - so this chance to put on jackets and jewellery provides a sense of glamour.

The current exhibition is by two artists. Deborah Lambert and Jules Anderson. Deborah is a painter, now living in Canterbury, and Jules a photographer from Westport. The paintings are in the larger exhibition space in the Gallery, and they feature New Zealand landscapes, many painted on-site in the mountains and along the rivers in the South Island. In the smaller space, Jules has a photo essay of artists along with short texts about their experiences of Covid. The opening last night, Saturday 29th, brought some of the artists in the photographs and, of course, the two exhibitors. Even though it was a cold evening with snow gathering on the mountains, a small crowd gathered to chat and mingle while looking at the artworks, and there was plenty of conversation and excellent food and wine. 

When we moved to this side of the world last year in February, it was with a little trepidation because we are so used to having art galleries and museums around the corner from our home in London. I did not expect to find such a vibrant art scene on the West Coast. How naive I was. It is so good to have an art gallery like this. It brings people together to converse and discuss. Ideas flow and new friends are made. Long live Opening Nights and long live The Left Bank Gallery!

You can follow the Gallery on Instagram here.