Our Illuminator this week is the multi-talented Scott Lawrie, a true creative spirit. From copy writing to building a home so glorious it appeared on Grand Designs New Zealand to successfully revitalising a remote New Zealand Gallery, The Vivian.
Thanks to Scott, The Vivian has become a Contemporary Art destination. Here he takes us through this latest creative journey in curating the exhibition, 'Exodus. The End of Ordinary' which as he explains below is harder than it looks...
The Vivian Gallery Curator and owner Scott Lawrie
Where do you work and what does your workspace look like?
I work in a purpose-built contemporary art gallery called The Vivian. It’s nestled in 3-acres of privately landscaped grounds, just outside a tiny town called Matakana, in New Zealand. My workspace is pretty unique; the office is actually one of the galleries. It has a sofa and tables as well as an office desk. We call it the Lounge Gallery and it’s one of the most popular spots to hang out.
The Vivian Gallery, Matakana New Zealand
The Lounge Gallery within The Vivien
Briefly describe how you generate ideas for exhibitions / your creative process? I have a really simple curatorial style; I start with a question that the art needs to help answer. For example, the current show Exodus, asks, ‘When we lose religion and politics as the big meta-influences (or guiding principles) in our lives, what do we replace them with?’. Then I select work that seems to have a go at a good answer. That’s the fun part!
Iain Cheesman, Signs of Earlier, 2018 (detail). © Iain Cheesman
What are the most challenging aspects of curating a show?
It’s incredibly hard work. People have this really weird ‘airy fairy’ attitude to art shows – that you sort of just pick ‘what you like’ and BOOM! – it’s done. In reality, what you have to do is: Research. Read lots. Form a question. Look at the work. Make a date. Select the artists. Invite the artists. Select the work. Talk to their dealers. Work out a sale agreement. Think about a show title. Get a catalogue essay written. Ensure good shots of the work. Log all catalogue details. Write a price list. Create the ads and posters. Print programs. Get the work delivered on time (nightmare). Prepare the walls. Unwrap the work. Hang the work. Update the website. Get stuff on Instagram. Send invites. Clean up. Get wine for the opening… about 10 times a year, on the smell of an oily rag.
Who / what / where do you take your inspiration from?
Although originally from Scotland, I’ve ended up in New Zealand, and I find it a hugely inspiring country. The landscape alone is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Art is also hugely inspirational to me – it’s been a lifelong passion and there’s honestly never a dull moment. When you find an artist’s work that relates to you instantly on a deep human level (but in a surprising way) it’s a genuinely magical experience. In terms of people; Elon Musk because the sheer scale of his vision makes me smile.
A view of the inspirational New Zealand landscape from Scott's home, 'The Crossing' a favourite from Grand Designs New Zealand
What is your favourite piece of work in your latest show?
To be honest, I picked each work in Exodus because I loved every single one of them. Dan Arps. Iain Cheesman. Virginia Leonard. Hugo Koha Lindsay. If I had to choose, though, it would be Sphinx by Patricia Piccinini. It’s a stunning, frightening and powerful piece of work.
Cover Image Patricia Piccinini, Sphinx, 2012. © Patricia Piccinini