Pauline Bellamy

I first contacted Pauline in April 2012 when I broached the idea of her taking part in the When North meets South exhibition. After receiving an enthusiastic response I called in at Bellamys Gallery one afternoon to meet John and Pauline and we just ‘clicked.’ Pauline is quiet, warm, inviting and with John, the framer and delightful host at the Gallery, they make a great team.


Pauline grew up on a farm on the Hauraki Plains. Living so far away from anywhere she entertained herself by drawing, mainly the farm animals. She remembers her mother’s interest in classical music and if there was ever a concert in town she would take the girls. So maybe that’s why a lot of your work focuses on orchestras, and musicians I suggest. Yes, you’re probably right. I’ve never really thought about it, Pauline answers. After leaving school Pauline studied graphic art at Auckland Technical Institute. She then became a commercial artist working for a shoe company drawing shoes as they came off the line – a job now left far behind in this digital age. She reflects that a fine art course would have suited her better but in those days people didn’t understand what it was about. And then after Auckland well Hamilton, for the caving. I had friends who were into caving and I joined them, I just loved it. I used to take my camera down, then come back up with photos which I’d paint from. That really got me into painting.

Then, in her 20s, Pauline moved with Bob to Queenstown. Stewart Island really appealed to them but Queenstown was where a teaching job was offered so that became their home. While there Pauline took the chance to go to the Kurow Summer Arts School – tutors from all over the country took courses. John Parker was a great teacher and made an impression on Pauline – he was terrific, right ‘out of the square’ , an abstract expressionist.

In ’75 Bob and Pauline bought a cottage in St Bathans, for $1000.00, stored all their gear in it, and headed for Europe, overland. It took them 9 months to get to Europe using public transport. They stayed with locals in villages and Pauline sketched – attracting a lot of local interest along the way. They travelled through Asia, Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, India, Afghanistan and, Pauline quite casually mentioned, the bus was only shot at once. In Nepal they enjoyed a two-week trek on their own. “Well all the locals had headed down the mountains to escape the coldest weather. So we stayed in yak huts, burning yak dung for warmth. We saw a black bear when we wandered off the path once – we were lost actually. And attitude sickness, yeh we had a bit of that.”

“When we got to Europe it was a bit disappointing, so civilised. It was just like NZ only years ahead of us. The art galleries were great though – I enjoyed them. We lived in Wales for a while where Bob was an Outward Bound instructor, then Bavaria where he was a ski instructor.

We came back to St Bathans and lived the ‘good life’ making our own goats cheese and trying to live off the land. It was a very isolated life and I couldn’t ever envisage living there permanently. Anyway we separated and shared the parenting of Manu. I then met John and we came to Dunedin.”

Dancer's Leap

Dancer’s Leap

My first sale was a cave painting –  from that Hamilton period. Let me think, my first exhibition. Do you remember Abernethys in George St? Well it was there, before we went travelling, so it was about 1972/73. We only had a bus so we had to truck the art down to Dunedin. lt was really successful. I enjoy all the exhibitions, especially A Circle of Life in collaboration with dancers and other artists, Macrocarpa at Bellamys and last year’s When North meets South.

The Pipers

The Pipers

I use a wide variety of materials, depending what mood I’m in – oils, etchings, watercolour drawings. Inspiration? Well that comes in the middle of the night or day, out driving  or at the gym. As soon as I answer all your questions I’ll get back to my current work, illustrating a poetry book. Umm the expressionists, NZ landscape painters and numerous others have influenced my work. No, I don’t place too much importance on whether a work will sell, or not because it will usually backfire if I do!! You’ve asking me heaps of questions here Ruth.

Pauline in her studio

Pauline in her studio

OK let’s keep going…. As for working hours I plan to work in the studio every day but in reality I only get there 4 days a week. I like working on my own with the radio for company. What sort? Oh music, national radio or the concert programme. I prefer, collaborative exhibitions, they’re more fun than solo ones. I avoid commissions, I had a large one  once, very large. It’s just too stressful, I worry too much about getting it right.

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station

Why Dunedin? Well it’s a great place to live, the physicality of the buildings, the heritage. I’m a winter person so I love the climate. It has a great artistic community and very supportive. Marketing my art? Hmmm, well I use email a lot. I email people pictures of my latest work – and that works well.

Bellamys Gallery

Bellamys Gallery

Pauline’s other interests are travelling around back roads and towns of NZ and  painting from the car (it’s her sub studio!), going to Central, cooking for family and friends, planning things for the gallery, growing vegetables and fruit trees. And when I asked my final question, what made you accept our invitation, her answer was spot on!  Oh I just love Poems in the Waiting Room.

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