Gallery draw artists back
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Gallery draw artists back

Mary Macpherson, from the series – Safe, 1987, colour photograph, Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui

Ambience, gallery draw artists back

The Sarjeant Gallery welcomes several thousand out-of-towners, national and international, through its doors annually, many of whom claim to be return visitors. I was curious to find out who some of these regular visitors are and what they loved about this town and the treasures at the Sarjeant.

Wellington based artists, Peter Black and Mary Macpherson both have work in the Sarjeant’s permanent Collection and try to fit in regular trips to Whanganui. They were happy to share a few memories and stories with me.

How often do you visit Wanganui and the Sarjeant?

We might go to Whanganui once or twice a year, usually if there’s an art or cultural event on that interests us. We always feel really positive about a chance to jump in the car and make the trip.

What do you love about Wanganui?

It’s probably something to do with the ambiance of the city – the historic buildings, older style shop windows, the trees and planting, good food and, of course, the Sarjeant Gallery. It’s simply a nice place to hang out in. We always find it a stimulating place to photograph in as well – in Peter’s recent work ‘the grass is awfully green’ there’s an important photograph of a bee with spring blossoms which came from Whanganui.

Are there any places in Wanganui that you enjoy visiting each time you come?

The Sarjeant Gallery has got to be a major port of call for us and Paul McNamara’s excellent photography gallery. We’ve also got a weakness for George’s Fish and Chips! It may sound curious but we also just enjoy walking the streets and taking in the different sense of space, culture and architecture – as photographers that’s important to us.

Do you have a favourite work in the Collection or exhibition that you’ve seen at the Sarjeant?

We’re always impressed by the quality and breadth of the shows and the depth of the Sarjeant’s Collection. It’s important to have a public gallery that shows such a range of work, from leading contemporary artists through to historic work like Edith Collier – that alone makes it a New Zealand treasure. We also really appreciate the regular inclusion of photographs in exhibitions and the solo photographic shows.


Peter Black, Hastings [Moving Pictures Portfolio], 1990, black and white gelatin print, Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui

How do you feel about having your own work in the Sarjeant’s collection?

We’re delighted to be part of the Sarjeant’s Collection. The focus on photography over the years (along with other mediums) means it’s really special for photographic artists like us to be included in a Collection of such depth.

How do you think the Sarjeant Gallery benefits Whanganui?

We think the Sarjeant Gallery is a major Whanganui attraction. People we talk to really seem to love it as a space and as a place to look at art. Hopefully the redevelopment will only enhance its appeal.

Are you working on any projects at the moment that you can let us in on?

Mary has just finished a major series called Bent which is about how the lives of trees are affected by human needs. Currently she is experimenting with some new photographic ideas. Peter is working on his ongoing series about New Zealand. A short film about his work should also be available this year.

Thank you Mary and Peter for sharing your stories with us and for your continued support of the Sarjeant Gallery. More of Mary and Peter’s work is available to view on their respective websites and

Te Maari Barham
Collection Transition Assistant

Sarjeant Stories