Friday, August 8, 2014

Do visit PoARTry @ Olveston!


Last night I was privileged to attend the opening of a lovely exhibition that is being held in Olveston, Dunedin. I have to declare possible editorial bias with this report, as Laura and I are two of the 16 artists that were invited to create works in response to the poems of Ruth Arnison, who has been poet in residence at Olveston for the last few months.
The opening was a delightful gathering of artists, writers, art lovers, and friends.
Ruth Arnison is the smallest person in this photo, just to right of centre, but you would never know it as she has a big heart and gets things done!
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while, may remember Ruth's name coming up in September 2013 in connection with an exhibition we were involved in at Bellamys Gallery, Dunedin called "Bellamys At 5". This exhibition helped raise money for Ruth's charity, Poems In the Waiting Room. Poems in the Waiting Room put little collections of poems together for people to read in doctor's waiting rooms, and other such places. The poems make a welcome change from the usual selection of magazines, and it is a treat to discover them in such places. Laura and I both enjoyed taking part in that exhibition, and I remember thinking what a generous spirit seemed to underpin the whole thing.
In addition to the 3 vases that I put in the exhibition, I added another 4 "unofficially" to be used for flowers to decorate the room. I loved this one in particular, the Christmas Roses, were just right!

Ruth's residency at Olveston and the exhibition that has come out of that also has a very special quality to it. The exhibition is something that you feel that the old house really approves of. As poet in residence Ruth had access to the many rooms of Olveston, and she could tag onto the end of the various guided tour parties that went through the home each day, or explore the more out of the way corners on her own. A house like this is like a slumbering animal, an old war horse, half asleep and full of memories. Her poems express the atmosphere of the place, the present, and the ever present past. I think she also discovered some of the personalities of the people that once lived there, especially Dorothy Theomin.
Hanging the exhibition. Jenny Longstaff tries out a place for Laura's picture.
The exhibition is held in the basement of Olveston, in the drying room of the laundry.  Prior to the exhibition I was initially somewhat concerned about the institutional look of the room, with the lower parts of its walls painted hospital green. With the paintings up, and poems, pots, and sculpture displayed, it is much more friendly, and the odd nooks and crannies of the room are an advantage, in that you do not see everything at one glance, but have to move around and make discoveries.

This was once an essential part of the drying room!
Ruth has published a really fine book of her Olveston poems that is illustrated with the artwork from the exhibition, and some photos of objects and pictures in the Olveston collection. The book is available for sale at the exhibition for about $20 (if my memory serves me correctly!). Work is for sale in the exhibition, and a third of money raised from the sales will go to Ruth's charity, Poems in the Waiting Room.

Ruth is blogging about her residency and the exhibition at Olveston at
A poet in residence | upstairs downstairs at Olveston, Dunedin's historic home.

I hope to revisit the exhibition in daylight, and take some more photos for the blog of the exhibition, and one of Olveston itself.

The exhibition runs until 17 August. There are two special events on at the exhibition. A poetry performance this coming Sunday afternoon, and a panel discussion on the final Sunday afternoon, where artists talk about their work, and other things!

 About Olveston
For those of you who don't know, Olveston is probably the nearest thing we have in Dunedin to a "Stately Home".  It has an interesting collection of art, craft and fine things, and is open to the public for guided tours. Of course Olveston is more than that, it was someone's home, and a strong sense of the family that lived there abides still within the rooms and corridors.

History
Olveston was built between 1904 and 1907 in Jacobean style for David Theomin (1852-1933). The 35 room house was equipped with the latest conveniences, central heating, electricity, an internal telephone system, and so on, and 5 to 7 servants to ensure the household worked smoothly. Theomin had a lucrative business importing pianos that he distributed through a nation wide chain of shops, the shops later became the Bristol Piano Company. By marriage to Marie Michaelis, Theomin was related to the Hallenstein, Fels, de Beer, and Brasch families of Dunedin, who were significant patrons of the arts. The Theomins collected art, ceramics and furniture, and music, art, and literature would have been a vibrant part of life at Olveston.
After 1933, as the sole survivor of her immediate family, Dorothy Theomin continued the philanthropic activities of her parents. Dorothy Theomin never married, and worked to uphold her parents' belief that good fortune was on lease, to be employed for the benefit of others.
In 1966 the house and its contents were bequeathed to the city of Dunedin, and guided tours of the house commenced the following year. Dorothy Theomin had been a help and encouragement to artists and musicians in her life time, and bequeathed Olveston to the citizens of Dunedin, I think with the hope that it would be seen as a cultural treasure and accessible to the public, a bit like the museum or the art gallery. I suspect that her dream had never quite been realised as, until recently, Olveston tended to be more a place that tourists visited on guided tours, or locals visited as a special treat, or when showing relatives the city. Having an artist or writer in residence has changed that in a very positive way. At the opening several people spoke to me of how delighted they thought that Dorothy Theomin would have been that Olveston was reconnecting with living artists and writers.
One person that I spoke to reflected quite movingly of how Dorothy Theomin would have seen Olverston in its prime, and then in the quiet later days. In old age she lived at Olveston alone, well after two world wars had completely changed the way people lived and worked and related to each other.
For this short history I have borrowed heavily from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olveston_(house)
and from a lovely biography of Dorothy Theomin that I found online at Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4t14/theomin-dorothy-michaelis
I am not sure how long this link will work for, but here is a link to Dunedin Television and their coverage of the exhibition at Olveston.
Poetry and art come together at Olveston house

Apologies if I have missed out words, or made horrendous errors of spelling, Laura is away in the North Island helping out her parents for a few weeks, and I am lacking my proof reader!

2 comments:

dave sharp said...

Hi Peter

didn't make the Olveston show..sounded fun. By the way, is it just coincidence that the great-no make that overwhelming -majority of your 'followers' are women?? It may of course be a reflection of the gender makup of 'potters' though I suspect not. Either way, its a great blog!
Cheers, Dave

Peter said...

Hi Dave,
Good to hear from you. The Olveston show was good fun! Regarding the overwhelming majority of my followers being women, I hadn't thought about it, but it seems that you may be right. I don't know if it is the case that more women follow blogs than men, or if it is something to do with what I write? Women have always greatly outnumbered the men in any art classes I have taught, and it may be that more women are involved in art as a hobby or as a profession than men?