The Mason Gallery
Mangawhai’s latest art venture, Mason Gallery, blends a curated selection of photography and art pieces from international and local artists. Beautifully captured on the top floor of the iconic Bennetts Café building, Lead Editor, Kirsty, caught up gallery co-owner, Geoff Mason, to swoon over art and chat.
When did your penchant for art/photography begin?
Forever ago! It was the late 60s in Wellington and doing an apprenticeship was the way forward. I was full of confidence and a plucky dream to be the top national photographer. I then formed my own studio and carried out work for advertising agencies into the 70s and 80s, as well as tutoring students at Wellington Polytechnic.
Tapping into China’s far regions in the 80s with a backpack and a photojournalism hunger were incredible times. Untouched by the press of the West, we got in just before high fashion hit. National and NZ Geographic became regular editorial clients, with global assignments peppered into my regular Auckland studio job.
Eventually, the passion for commercial work waned around 2000, about the time still film clashed with digital photography. The perfect assignment called and we jumped. Photographing 67 world heritage sites across Africa and Europe for the ‘Our Place Project’ has been a career highlight.
Tell us about your pieces in Mason Gallery?
The Our Place Project has inspired our theme at the gallery and hand-picked pieces of my work are presented as large canvas art. We also have a collection of work from New Zealand and overseas artists. Diversity and freshness is our vision, with displays changing regularly.
What made you consider Mangawhai as a venue?
A cross between a life-long wish to own a gallery, and a nostalgic memory really! My wife Christine and I made Mangawhai our second home a few years back. We purchased a caravan site and spent many holidays here. Bennetts Café is a favourite hangout, it reminds us of an old log house we owned in the South Island. We fell in love with the building and the gallery dream followed.
Mangawhai is a vibrant art scene. That talent and love for art spreads across a strong circuit – from Matakana, up to the proposed Hundertwasser art centre planned for Whangarei.
What can visitors look forward to this summer?
We’ll keep our formula going of regularly changing out the space with new work. We’ll always showcase a couple of international artists, along with well-known local artists. The building is a lovely space to work and Christine has a natural talent for putting art into a home-like context.
To the uninitiated, the art world can be daunting, what’s your advice for collecting art?
I saw a quote in Sydney recently that sums it up; “Design is what it looks like. Art is how it makes you feel.” Simply love what you love. Don’t let the investment figure drive you. If you spontaneously purchase that’s ok, if it takes 6-8 weeks to make the leap – that’s just fine too.
Article by Kirsty Millar & Photography by Jessica Whiting