Artists’ residence

As we pass the one-year anniversary of Covid’s untimely arrival, we look back at how artists from around New Zealand hunkered down and what lessons they learnt from staying at and creating from home. 

Denys Watkins,  Auckland

I live in a villa on the edge of the city. It has a large garden and the house is situated on the corner of the street. There are two studios, mine and my wife’s. She is a ceramist working with clay, whereas I mainly work in painted imagery and works on paper. 

I began a series of works in late 2019 before Covid. These loose concepts addressed issues of hygiene, deodorants, words that identify products with cosmetic associations.

Socially, the first lockdown seemed upbeat: families walking and cycling in groups, talking and engaging with other people. Yet, a sense of the unknown seemed apparent.

Denys Watkins

Tyne Gordon, Christchurch

I enjoyed lockdown. It forced me to slow down, magnifying the joy in everyday domestic rituals.

I really appreciated how close I lived to the Heathcote River. Being in nature, especially near water, was crucial to my overall equilibrium. I enjoy following the snake-like path the river maps out, a contrasting movement to the stasis I had at home.

Tyne Gordon

Will Bennett, Wellington

Our 1910 Newtown villa has five bedrooms along with a large backyard, which is rare for Wellington’s compact living. Our home has always had flatmates coming and going, but only now has it settled down to me, my girlfriend Essi, my cousin Fraser, and my brother Jack. It is more of a home now for me, rather than a flat. We have definitely had colourful characters here over the years — mostly musicians who like to practise and party, a lot. 

We all adapted and created zones of work and zones of doing nothing so people didn’t overlap or annoy one another. At this point, I was grateful for the art that I had throughout the house. In some ways, it keeps you company. 

There are definitely moments of lockdown I miss — movies, games, talking to people and becoming closer — but moments I would rather forget.  

Will Bennett’s Wellington home

Kāryn Taylor, Nelson

Over lockdown I was in my childhood home in Dunedin. It’s a house that my parents designed in the American bungalow style of the ’60s. My father built it himself with no prior experience — and he did an amazing job. The house sits on a long quarter-acre section, so the living room, which has a large picture window — a size that was unusually large for the time — is at the front and gets a lot sun with a great view of the nearby bush-laden hills. The four bedrooms come off a long hallway and are all large with big windows — that hallway, once uncarpeted, was the best sock-sliding alley you could find. Out the back there is an old workshop, and a large veggie patch and fruit trees that have been growing food for more than 50 years.

During lockdown I became more aware of all areas of the house and garden rather than just the obvious places I would usually utilise. Spaces that I may have overlooked as potential hang-out spots, such as the spare room or a different spot in the garden, became somewhere I could experience a micro change of environment.

Kāryn Taylor

Harry Culy, Wellington

At the time I was living in a small apartment in Oriental Bay and the mood was of change, uncertainty, and anxiety for the most part. I had been trying to make work about my hometown for the previous couple years, which tapped into some of those feelings, but lockdown just kind of crystallised those ideas and made it feel more urgent.

Did my relationship with my home environment change much? Yeah. I tried to explore my own backyard — I think I’ve become more appreciative of Wellington and all the weird and beautiful things in my vicinity. I spent a lot of time walking through the deserted city streets and in the Mount Victoria town belt. Early on in lockdown I saw a pair of kārearea in Mount Victoria — I had never seen kārearea in real life so that was special.

Harry Culy


Images courtesy of the artists, and Jhana Millers Gallery —

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