Celebrating Puanga with art. That's the aim of the exhibitions opening today at Space Studio and Gallery in St Hill St.
For photographer Gail Imhoff, it's also a special occasion — her first major solo exhibition.
"I'm calling it Nga Iti O Whanga Nui, a glimpse and a bit of a narrative on the Awa [Whanganui]," says Gail. "They're photos of the Awa, and they're not just your normal, beautiful scenery photos.
They're photos I've done over the past few years and that I particularly like. One or two are quite different and some of them will definitely provoke comment and conversation in response.
"This exhibition is about the mauri (life force), the wairua or spiritual connection and my personal connection and interaction with our Awa."
Gail has 16 photographs she would like to see in the exhibition.
"They all speak to me," she says. "Most are printed on photo rag and they won't be framed."
Space director and curator, Sarah Williams, is excited about the exhibition.
"We had some opportunities in the winter programme so we did a bit of a call out and Gail responded. It developed from there and we realised the dates coincided with Puanga and Matariki and so decided we would bring in the other shows to support Gail."
There is a group show in Gallery 1 and Gail's show is in Gallery 2.
"It's a very relevant conversation, too, with the Awa becoming a 'person', it's great to celebrate that and Gail has a huge amount of knowledge to be able to do that in the appropriate way," says Sarah.
Cecelia Kumeroa, who is part of the group exhibition in Gallery 1, had mentioned to Sarah that there seemed to be a gap this year with very little art celebrating Puanga in Whanganui. These exhibitions will put that right.
This is also a first for Space, having never had a Puanga exhibition before.
"I hope it's something that can continue," says Sarah.
In Gallery 1 is Wheturangi — 'Star Cluster'. A group exhibition celebrating puanga and featuring artists Hohua Thompson, Vanessa Edwards, Natasha Keating, Tapiri O Te Rangi Pirikahu, Jody Edmonds, Maehe Ranginui & Cecelia Kumeroa.
Cecelia has a projection piece planned for the Pop-Up Gallery.
The exhibitions will be formally opened this evening at Space with assistance from Nicole Dryden.