Q&A with Holly Davies – Monterey Gallery

Earlier this year Howick’s Monterey Gallery gained new owners – Anne Brewer and her daughter, Holly Davies. While Anne provides the business acumen, Holly’s background in the visual arts sees her in charge of marketing.

EastLife asked Holly about her dual roles of an interdisplinary artist intent on her own art and running a gallery.

Mother and daughter team Anne Brewer, left, and Holly Davies – fresh directions at Howick’s Monterey Gallery .

How long have you lived in Howick? Were you born and raised in the area?
Even though I wasn’t born here, Howick is home. We moved around a lot when I was younger but my parents settled permanently in Howick when I was at intermediate school and we’ve stayed here ever since.

Did you ever attend movies at the former Monterey Theatre years back?
I never attended movies at the original Monterey Cinema, but I enjoy hearing the stories from our visitors who remember the original space or were involved in the evolution from cinema to gallery. Some of the stories were a bit scandalous!

In brief, how and why did your mother and you decide to purchase the Monterey?
It was strange timing! I had just resigned from my last job when Anne saw an ad in the local paper about a gallery for sale and enquired further.

She has a strong background in business and was really excited about it. She then set about talking me into coming in with her. Once we were both on board we just hit the ground running contacting artists, organising renovations, delegating jobs to the rest of the family – my sister, Emma Rogan, is involved behind the scenes helping with our identity design. She did an awesome job updating the Monterey logo.

Did you ever think that one day you’d be busy running your own gallery?
Running my own gallery had never been an option. I don’t think I had ever really entertained the idea before, which makes this new venture all the more surreal and exciting, but it’s a family affair so we’re all in it together.

You’re running the gallery with your mum (Anne Brewer). Who’s the boss? What roles do you undertake on a day-to-day basis?
Anne’s background is in business and mine is in visual art, so we have quite defined positions at the gallery. I take care of the marketing, advertising and curatorial responsibilities, but in saying that, we do collaborate and seek feedback when it comes to selecting art for the gallery and how we curate the space.

Since taking the reins at the gallery, you’ve already hosted a few exhibitions. Which (so far) has been your favourite and why?
I don’t think I have a favourite, each exhibition brings new joys and challenges. We have some exciting shows on our calendar though. As part of the Auckland Festival of Photography we have Kristin Hatland and John Kiely exhibiting a collaborative photographic collection and the sneak peeks I’ve seen are very moving. It’s a medium that I’m passionate about so I’m very excited to host this show – On The Shoulders Of Giants opens June 8.

We understand you are an artist in your own right, as well as an illustrator and photographer, has running the gallery meant less time to create your own works or has it inspired you to create more?
Continuing to make my own art is important to me. I’ve always worked full time, so I’m quite used to balancing a job and art making. This is probably the best environment for that; being able to job share with Anne so I can take time if I need it, and also just being around art and artists – everyday there is something that inspires me.

You’re known as an interdisciplinary artist – what does that mean? Photography, painting… anything else?
I majored in photography during my Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at Auckland University (in association with the Manukau Institute of Technology) and I always find my projects or experiments start photographically whether it’s through my camera or collaging existing prints.

I love tactile, tangible and low-fi aesthetics so I don’t always treat the photograph as a precious thing – I will cut them up, draw on them, scratch into negatives.

At Uni we were given the opportunity to try all sorts of different art making techniques, from moving image to painting to sculpture, so having an interest in a multitude of different forms it was natural for me to try and incorporate them into my work.

After Uni and before taking over the gallery where did your journey take you?
After finishing my degree in 2007 I relocated to Melbourne, living and exhibiting there for three years before moving back to NZ in time for my exhibition This Room, The Sum of My Memories (of you) at Snake Pit in November 2011.

In the summer of 2012/2013 I collaborated with Zainab Hikmet for a video installation in Corner Window Space titled, I Dance, I Ripple, I am Thrown Over You Like A Net Of Light.

Prior to taking on the gallery I worked various retail and office jobs, did a bit of travel, and continued to make art in my spare time.

You’re known in the ‘art world’ as Blotto. Where did this come from?
It’s actually a Simpson’s reference and a joke I have with myself, I didn’t want to sign my illustrations with my own name and I liked the word!

Who is your favourite artist?
So many favourite artists! I think art that I enjoy the most has a sense of self-awareness or a similar darkhumour to my own. I love Dan Attoe’s neon light installations or anything by Robert Grober. There are so many great New Zealand artists that I also admire. There is such a lot of talent in our art community and I’m loving the resurgence in everyday appreciation of textiles, weaving, and ceramics.

If you could be the Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage for one day, what would you do first and why?
I’d seek more funding for the visual arts, which I believe is being neglected under the current government, but, alas, it’s not something we can fix in a day!

If you could invite any three people to dinner (living or dead) who and why?
Anyone who is a great story teller, maybe Werner Herzog or Ian McShane who has a great rich voice I could listen to it forever; my Nana Deirdre and her sister Enid to repeat stories from our family history in case I forget