Pauline Bellamy

The Bellamys Gallery

I first contacted Pauline in April when I broached the idea of her taking part in the When North meets South exhibition. After receiving an enthusiastic response I called in at Bellamys Gallery one afternoon to meet John and Pauline and we just ‘clicked.’ Pauline is quiet, warm, inviting and with John, the framer and delightful host at the Gallery, they make a great team.

Some images from ‘Dickensian Dunedin’

Since that first meeting we’ve met in town on several occasions for cafe catch ups and in between times kept in touch via email. And at every meeting I’ve warned Pauline about ‘the’ approaching interview but we’ve just never got around to it so I finally emailed her with a range of days and this morning the reply, I know it’s a bit last-minute but I’m here this afternoon. Well I packed up my questions, along with my camera, and headed down the Bay before I realised I hadn’t replied! Pauline had in fact nipped out so I assured John I was quite happy to wander around and look at Pauline’s current exhibition – Dickensian Dunedin.

Dickensian Dunedin

Very shortly Pauline arrived and I followed her out to her studio – a lovely sun filled light space. I mentioned I’d seen a work in the gallery which had the words dry point etching and being totally ignorant about art, what was this? Pauline pulled out her sketchbook from a recent trip to Australia, selected a sketch of a busker, and proceeded to talk me through the process of dry point etching. Well, there was a slight creak as the interview sneaked out the door!

I was fascinated and very much aware of how Pauline was making this look ‘all so easy.’ I asked her how she became interested in this form of art?
Well it was Manu really. He went to Art School for 4-5 minutes – long enough to learn print making and woodcuts. He knew that woodcuts were going to be ‘his thing’ so didn’t want to stay any longer. And then he passed on to me what he’d learned. At first I thought printmaking was going to be ‘too technical”. When I started etching I used nitric acid, which was too dangerous for me, I’m messy and I could see we weren’t going to get on. But once I discovered dry pointed etching I knew it was going to suit me.

Pauline worked while we chatted, and within a short time she opened the press and there was a perfect example of a dry point etching! Conversation just flowed and we moved from one topic of interest to another and would have kept going I’m sure until John popped in to see how we were going. Oops, the interview. I retrieved the questions, fired them off and within seven minutes we were finished. So join us for our chit-chat and I think you’ll recognise the point where John enters and the interview questions slip back into the studio with him!!!!

The Pipers

Pauline grew up on a farm on the Hauraki Plains. Living so far away from anywhere she entertained herself by drawing, mainly the farm animals. She remembers her mother’s interest in classical music and if there was ever a concert in town she would take the girls. So maybe that’s why a lot of your work focuses on orchestras, and musicians I suggest. Yes, you’re probably right. I’ve never really thought about it, Pauline answers. After leaving school Pauline studied graphic art at Auckland Technical Institute. She then became a commercial artist working for a shoe company drawing shoes as they came off the line – a job now left far behind in this digital age. She reflects that a fine art course would have suited her better but in those days people didn’t understand what it was about. And then after Auckland well Hamilton, for the caving. I had friends who were into caving and I joined them, I just loved it. I used to take my camera down, then come back up with photos which I’d paint from. That really got me into painting.

Another musical etching

Then, in her 20s, Pauline moved with Bob to Queenstown. Stewart Island really appealed to them but Queenstown was where a teaching job was offered so that became their home. While there Pauline took the chance to go to the Kurow Summer Arts School – tutors from all over the country took courses. John Parker was a great teacher and made an impression on Pauline – he was terrific, right ‘out of the square’ , an abstract expressionist.

Leaving Bluff

In ’75 Bob and Pauline bought a cottage in St Bathans, for $1000.00, stored all their gear in it, and headed for Europe, overland. It took them 9 months to get to Europe using public transport. They stayed with locals in villages and Pauline sketched – attracting a lot of local interest along the way. They travelled through Asia, Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, India, Afghanistan and, Pauline quite casually mentioned, the bus was only shot at once. In Nepal they enjoyed a two-week trek on their own. Well all the locals had headed down the mountains to escape the coldest weather. So we stayed in yak huts, burning yak dung for warmth. We saw a black bear when we wandered off the path once – we were lost actually. And attitude sickness, yeh we had a bit of that.

Otago Farmer’s market

At this stage Pauline brought out 2 sketchbooks full of her work over that period. I gave heaps and heaps of drawings away. When we got to Europe it was a bit disappointing, so civilised. It was just like NZ only years ahead of us. The art galleries were great though – I enjoyed them. We lived in Wales for a while where Bob was an Outward Bound instructor, then Bavaria where he was a ski instructor.

We came back to St Bathans and lived the ‘good life’ making our own goats cheese and trying to live off the land. It was a very isolated life and I couldn’t ever envisage living there permanently. Anyway we separated and shared the parenting of Manu. I then met John and we came to Dunedin.

So what have you done with all these Overland sketches I ask. Hmm, nothing. I should really, Paula admits sheepishly. Well, now I don’t need to nag Pauline about an interview, I can see there might need to be some gentle pressure to get these overland sketches worked on for public viewing!

A cosy nook in the Gallery

When we last met, Pauline was heading off to Riversdale so I was keen to hear how the 2 day course went.
It was great. They are so enthusiastic and committed. They’ve got a great arts community down there. The first day 10 women and one guy turned up for a life drawing class. And then the second day I held a printmaking course for about –10-11 women. They went away with some terrific work.

WNMS – Do you remember your first sale?
Yes it was a cave painting – from that Hamilton period.

WNMS – So what about your first exhibition? When and where was that?
Do you remember Abernethys in George St? Well that was my first ever exhibition, before we went travelling, so it was about 1972/73. We only had a bus so we had to truck the art down to Dunedin. lt was really successful.

Pauline illustrated this book

WNMS – What was your best exhibition – in terms of enjoyment?
Definitely in 2008 “Come Dance with me” – a collaborative work with Barbara Snook. (At this stage Pauline gets out a scrapbook and shows me pictures and articles about the exhibition.) Barbara was the Caroline Plummer fellow in Community Dance 2008. She wrote a children’s book, Come Dance with Me, about death and the healing power of dance. Bill O’Brien, the 2008 Writer-in-Residence at the University of Otago’s College of Education edited the book and I painted watercolour illustrations for it. Sue Wootton, the Burns Fellow and Chris Watson, the Mozart Fellow also collaborated on the project.

WNMS – After preparing for an exhibition do you feel like ‘a breather’ or are you brimming with ideas and want to get started on your next project straight away?
I lose interest once it’s organised. I just want to move on to the next thing.

WNMS – Is your studio used for the whole art process or do you just use it for the tidying up/finishing process?
Well as you saw the other day Ruth, my car is my sub studio. (We’d met for lunch last week and before we parted I’d hopped into Pauline’s car to see some photos of an art exhibition John and Pauline had visited while in Australia. Pauline had also mentioned that Dickensian Dunedin, was mainly sketched from her car. She’d park up somewhere and sit in the warmth of the car sketching.)

from Come Dance with Me

WNMS – How do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
Well I just leave everything and go outside and paint – it takes me out of myself.

WNMS –  So do you have multiple works on the go?
Yes. ( This wasn’t just a yes, it was a ‘without hesitation’ yes!)

WNMS – How much of your work is commissioned?
I avoid it. I had a large commission once, very large. It’s just too stressful, I worry too much about getting it right.

WNMS – Do you ever push yourself to finish something that is arguing with you through the whole creative process?
Yes I just stick with it until it comes right.

WNMS – Do you prefer to be on your own while you work?

Dancer’s Leap

WNMS – Do you work in silence or have music/radio in the background?
I enjoy the Concert programme, and I listen to Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, Tom Waites.

WNMS – Has the influx of social media changed the way you market your art?
Yes I use email a lot. I email people pictures of my latest work – and that works well.

WNMS – Do you work with sale in mind?
No.( I love Pauline’s certainty with her answers!)

Dunedin Railway Station – SOLD

WNMS – How does place – Dunedin –influence your work?
Dunedin’s a great place to live, the physicality of the buildings, the heritage. I’m a winter person so I love the climate. It has a great artistic community and very supportive.

WNMS – What are you currently painting/creating?
I’m working towards an exhibition. Well I’m working it out in my head – I haven’t started yet. I’m also working towards a series of nudes for an Arts Festival exhibition at our gallery with Emma Chalmers.

WNMS – And your interests outside of the art world?
Movies, opera, tramping – I love the South Island – and my grand-daughter – Eulalia Bellbird Berry.

WNMS – How did the Gallery come about?
Well that was John’s idea. He’d been framing for me at St Bathans and thought a Gallery would work well for us in Dunedin.

And there we finished. Well, not really. I get the feeling Pauline and I will never be finished. Take a trip out to Bellamy’s one afternoon and wander around the gallery. There you’ll see the work of an exceptionally talented and versatile artist. Pauline is  unassuming and gentle, it’s a pleasure to be in her company.

The lovely Pauline Bellamy

2 Responses to “Pauline Bellamy”
  1. barbsnooky says:

    Yes, Pauline is very lovely indeed

  2. Susan Ball says:

    It has been an absolute delight to read this blog. It is also so humbling to read of Pauline’s unassuming nature and her amazing talents and gifts and the amazing work she has produced through The Bellamys Gallery.

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