Auckland artist Sam Mitchell has been busy producing a series of watercolour works that adorn the kitchen wall at her temporary home in Whanganui.

Mitchell is the current artist in residence at the Glasgow St Arts Centre and she thinks there may be a paradoxical twist to her productivity.

"The great thing about this residency is that I'm not under pressure to produce anything and yet I've been producing a lot.

"I tend to wake up very early and I've been busy in the mornings before spending the afternoons doing good Whanganui things."


Mitchell is no stranger to residencies - In 2010 she was the paramount winner of the James Wallace Art Award which included a residency in New York and she was the William Hodges Fellow in Invercargill in 2014.

She is also no stranger to Whanganui, having been a resident at Tylee Cottage in 2014 she exhibited with Gavin Hurley at the Sarjeant Gallery and joined a group exhibition at the former Rayner Brothers Gallery in Guyton St.

"Since then I've visited often and I have submitted work for some of the Rayners' group exhibitions.

"It is really nice to be here and just enjoy Whanganui."

Artist Sam Mitchell is enjoying her second residency in Whanganui. Photo / Doug Sherring
Artist Sam Mitchell is enjoying her second residency in Whanganui. Photo / Doug Sherring

There are 40 small paintings on the kitchen wall - each one packed with 20th-century images rendered in Mitchell's fine brushwork.

Her work has been described as acerbic and irreverent and her recent works certainly contain those elements although they also convey a warm sense of nostalgia.

There is a recurring blue and white colour scheme reminiscent of Delftware china and surprising flashes of shocking pink.

"The pink is inspired by Whanganui," says Mitchell.


"I've started using it since I've been here."

Demons, skulls and mermaids, angst-ridden characters from 1950s romance comics and dial telephones are blended with 1980s images of cassette tapes, ET and Alf the alien.

Mitchell completed a bachelor of fine arts at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1997 and she is known for her ceramic painting as well as reverse works painted on perspex.

Although she will not be exhibiting her current work, she says pieces are like to show up in future shows at the Rayner Brothers Gallery.