10 May 2017

Living With Art

We talk with Jade Bentley of Art Associates on the subject of living and working with art and ask what motivates her to be deeply engaged in this world of creativity.


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Whether you make art, collect art, use it as a finishing touch to your home decor or simply enjoy attending exhibitions, art has a significant role to play in our every-day lives.

Whatever way you interact with it, art can influence our moods, spark conversation or ignite controversy. It can add a transformative dimension to a room and for some it can provide a sense of healing.

Jade’s father a Samoan and her mother a kiwi mix of European and Maori lived in West Auckland. They owned a lunch bar in Grey Lynn in the early 90s. Jade recalls, “During the school holidays my brother and I would be at the shop with mum and dad or hanging out in Grey Lynn where there were a lot of artists and musicians around at that time. So from an early age I had a keen interest in art. My mum was creative and when we were growing up she made sure we had only the best materials to make art with. The goal was to become an accountant and have art as my ‘time out’ activity.”

By 1997 and with just one week to go before Jade was to commence her Bachelor of Commerce at Auckland University, she applied and was accepted to Whitecliffe College of Art and Design. With accountancy no longer in her sights, she never turned back! During Jades third year of her Bachelor of Fine Arts she worked part time at Art Associates which had been set up in Grey Lynn in the 80s by Jeanne Walters and Deborah White. Upon completion of her four-year degree she went on to work full time for Jeanne and Deborah.

When I asked Jade what she loved most about working in Ponsonby, her answer was straightforward, “It’s nice to have everything so readily accessible; food, art and artists, I have so many favourites. I love Ponsonby and until recently, my dad, Joe, worked at Burrell’s Demolition in Grey Lynn and my brother Vance, a qualified architect is still at Jessop Architects in Ponsonby. So with me at Art Associates, as a family we created a triangle, a small world of separate, but related worlds!”

Jade describes herself as a ‘permanent fixture’ at Art Associates and she tells me she has always been proud of the service they provide. Whilst home staging is some of what they do, leasing art now forms a major part of their offering and amidst all of this for Jade there remains a deep sense of connectedness to the artists.

“My relationship with the artists’ is one of the best parts of what I do.”

“We have many local Ponsonby and Grey Lynn artists in our stock room and each for their unique reasons and to name a few wouldn’t be enough. What I also love about my work is the element of surprise when you take a piece of art to a client that they never would have considered! It’s very satisfying to show them something different and you can have fun with mixing modern art with old architectural styles and traditional art with contemporary/modern architecture. Often it’s about providing a contrast - black and white, old to new, light and dark and so on.”

Jade’s drive and ambition means Art Associates provides almost everything under the contemporary art umbrella. She enjoys client consultations, equally she thrives on the challenge to help find artwork for new collectors and curate installations of existing art collections. She says that often the real challenge is to ‘find' walls for more artworks or updating pieces for a better fit. 

“It’s great to have an eclectic eye and think 'outside the box' especially when arranging the art to sit with each other as opposed to by itself. It is easier to find some similarity with each piece, whether in the frame, colour or theme. It is also satisfying when art meets architecture and tells a story of the past pointing to the future, but then there is always a place for timeless sentimental pieces too.”

Art influences different aspects of people’s lives, in a number of ways. The emotional connection is often quite significant when art is hung in a person’s home; it is up close and personal. It creates a point of interest or conversation and the reaction can trigger good or bad memories, publicity or intention; either way the reaction to art is in the eye of the beholder. However over the years it seems art has not always been taken seriously or has been somewhat misunderstood here in New Zealand. Thankfully the art market is changing and there’s a growing awareness of the impact that art has on society. Jade believes there’s a real push towards more sculptural elements and ephemeral pieces noting society and popular news - a twist on the original pop art era.

“Recent controversy or fascination in the new sculpture by Michael Parekowhai has been interesting to hear and read about,’ says Jade. “The running commentary of people’s personal opinions has been informative with both negative and positive comments. Lack of art knowledge or research can be the triggering ‘points of difference’ for the viewer. I think good or bad publicity is still publicity and there are more people now aware of this piece and of who Michael Parekowhai is.”

Jade considers the role of artists’ in the community important in that their product (art) evokes emotions in their audience and it ‘lives’ in people’s homes. Artists create things of passion that the viewer can immerse into to help take away the realities and stresses of day-to-day life; a kind of healing in a way.

Her long time vision to develop a space for artists has finally come to fruition with ‘Grey’ the new art space in Grey Lynn that responds to the artist, the art buyer and the art world. It’s a gallery area for exhibitions, pop up installations, curated shows and art projects for local, national and international creatives' to show their works or have artists’ talks and be inspired by other art societies and cultures. www.thegreyplace.nz

As for Jades own art practice she says, “I guess you could say I dabble in art at the moment, but his new art place has inspired me to create some much needed studio time and get back into making my own art. As a medium I love working with paper ink, gouache and pencil and my interest has always been with abstract impressionism through gesture, line and colour. I love living with art!”

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