Polly Cleverley with a work called “Rise and Fall”. And there’s that “bloody boat” again. Photo / Paul Brooks
Take a short trip to Drews Ave and check out the Orphic Gallery. It is next to the large building where the Wanganui Chronicle once reigned and where Jack Mitchell-Anyon now makes coffee. Two large dark doors protect Orphic from the street, but through those doors is an exhibit featuring oil paintings and clay sculptures by Polly Cleverley. “Bowing and Scraping … To Whom and for Why …” is across the street from Polly’s shop, Wolves in chic clothes, which is directly below the studio and gallery she shares with her partner Duncan Smith. Their studio is called artso, which is short for artsolutely … well that’s the polite version.
The title of the show, “Bowing and Scraping … To Whom and for Why” was born, says Polly, because it is at an age where none of this matters anymore, where he no longer “bows and postpones and hides, minimizes and silences everything I had to say “.
Polly has been painting for 20 years, intermittently, but very “off”, because she was trying to make a living doing other things. “I also hit a stage and have a wonderful studio opportunity to work from, and many artists don’t have the privilege of being able to work in a studio, close the door and leave, then go back the next day and take up the same painting again. Nobody interferes with the process, so now I paint every day.
“I have entered a space in my life where things are very simple and I have some boxes where I am interested in bouncing and, practically, the number one is painting”.
Polly found Whanganui after two decades of searching for who she is and where she wants to be. She is from Oamaru, evidence of which can be found in some of her paintings of her. She points to architectural features such as columns and arches, plinths and towers, which are abundant in the buildings of Oamaru. “It was a very wealthy city in its heyday and is now having a bit of a renaissance with steampunk and Victoriana.”
A small white rowboat also makes an appearance on more than one canvas.
“My dad and I spent three years in our backyard building that goddamn white boat.
“I don’t know why it popped up, but it’s everywhere right now.”
There are landscapes and geophysical shapes of North Otago lurking in plain sight – “all those beaches, all those horizon lines” – are all familiar to her. “They are all my homeland.
“Kakanui was my coastal city where we had our nativity scene where I spent all my summers”. You can see the slices in the landscape where they carved the Oamaru stone for construction.
Shallow water is in many of his works and reflects Polly’s astrological influence and personality.
Across the street, above Polly’s business, is a series of artwork produced by Polly and Duncan, two artists in the same space.
“We found that we work perfectly together and so we both started producing at a faster pace because we had each other’s support,” says Polly.
After seeing Polly’s work at the Orphic Gallery, you may want to pop into her clothing design business and ask to see more upstairs. There are surprises in store.