The destination point of seaside-winding Tamaki Drive is St Heliers. Originally a holiday location, the relaxed village boasts a range of delicious eateries and exudes an endless summer energy.
Turua Gallery is a new addition to the area, and well worth checking out next time you visit.
Aptly named after the street it resides on, Turua Gallery is the only gallery in St Heliers village and has been running for just over a year.
The gallery came about when wife and husband duo Melissa and Dean Wallace, who, after 20 years of running a successful design business were ready to embark on something new, noticed the local framing business was up for sale. Fast forward a few months and Turua Gallery was opening its doors, presenting all types of artwork – from paintings of landscapes, to sculptures and textile works.
Turua Gallery is a relaxed space where you’ll find beautiful contemporary New Zealand art, including several established local artists. It aims to have four of five solo exhibitions per year, with a selection of artworks from the gallery’s stable of established and emerging talent on display between times.
Gallery owner Melissa Wallace gives us the lowdown on the new creative space.
What inspired you to have a contemporary gallery in St Heliers?
I’m Auckland born and bred. I had a typical Kiwi upbringing in Epsom, walking to school, bikes rides at Cornwall Park, family barbecues and Christmas holidays at beaches like Waihi, with my mum, dad, brother and dogs.
I moved to St Heliers for the first time when I was 12. I spent my formative years here.
Growing up I loved art, I had an inspiring art teacher in high school and immersed myself in painting and print making. I studied graphic design at AUT, where I met my husband.
We formed a design company together – Proud Design; after 20 years it was time for a change. I wanted to be more involved in something more creative. We saw the local framing business up for sale, decided to open a gallery that offers framing and the rest is history.
What kind of art do you find yourself gravitating towards?
My taste is very varied – I like a little bit of everything. I prefer pieces that bring me joy and subject matters referential of good experiences. I’m drawn to floral and landscapes but also appreciate a well-crafted abstract. It’s so hard to choose favourites as I adore the work of all our artists but I’m very fond of landscape artists Jane Puckey and Sean Beldon and painters Philippa Bentley who uses augmented reality with her work and Bec Robertson. Love the abstract works of Helen Dean – all artists within our stable.
How has lock-down effected business?
It’s interesting, over the first lockdown we had a sell-out exhibition of Carmel Van Der Hoeven’s work, her opening event was the Friday prior. Different levels of lockdown make different aspects change.
During lockdown level 3 people have more time to wander and view, couples have the time to discuss their purchase. We’ve recently sold two artworks by holding them up to the door with people standing about one metre away. Under level 3 we still take appointments to view (at a distance, of course).
Turua is primarily a gallery, but it also offers assistance in framing. What came first for you, the gallery or the framers?
While walking past that ‘for sale’ sign in The Framer kicked off the whole adventure, the idea of a gallery had been sitting with us for a while. We were looking for a change and wanted to stay in the creative industry. The idea of being able to showcase contemporary artwork in St Heliers was exciting so we decided to take the plunge.
Running a gallery can be a tough business in the best of times, not to mention running a new gallery during such a transitional phase for society. What keeps your spirits up?
Some people come in quite nervously, then absolutely fall in love with an artwork. We’ve had messages and photos about how much they love their piece and where it sits at home. That’s always a great feeling. It is also incredibly exciting to discover emerging artists. I’m loving bringing something new to the community, who were hanging out for a gallery and now see us as a ‘go-to’ destination.
Describe the inspiration behind the interior design?
One half of the gallery is painted black, the other white, it’s quite a small space, we wanted to create different feelings with black walls, which we love and have at home. Some artwork looks very striking on a black wall. As we have heavy foot traffic with the surrounding eateries, we rotate the gallery regularly and it’s interesting to see people’s reactions when the same work is on a different wall, they come in and swear it’s a different artwork. It gives people the confidence to try the same at home.
Turua Gallery’s next big show, Neighbourhood, is part of Auckland Artweek from 10-18 October. Fourteen artists are creating work especially for the exhibition, celebrating St Heliers, Glendowie, Orakei and the waterfront. Currently on display is a selection of artists from the stable. Head online to turuagallery.co.nz to find out more.
10A Turua Street, St.Heliers Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm | Sat: 9am-3pm or by appointment
C–Level 1: Open as usual using tracer app C–Level 2: Open with social distancing using tracer app | Sign-in C–Level 3 : Appointment viewing with social distancing using tracer app | Sign-in. Phone +64 9 575 8001 C–Level 4 : Online only