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Curator Pippa Sanderson

Pippa Sanderson.
Pippa Sanderson Quest I, Quest II 2008.
Andrea du Chatenier, Wishland 2008.
Multi-media visual artist and independent curator Pippa Sanderson talks about The Blue Room, a to


Multi-media visual artist and independent curator Pippa Sanderson likes to share ideas and collaborate.  She also shares questions – and asked her Facebook friends to help describe her style. Read on to find out what they said!

In this Q&A Sanderson talks about curating The Blue Room, a touring exhibition about the psychic realm.

“The artists have all been really professional, and generous with their art-making and patient with the whole touring aspect. That has made the whole thing much easier than it could have been.”

The show features the work of thirteen artists - some are believers, some skeptics, but all raise questions about the fascination with the psychic that haunts us now - from television shows to the internet and touring psychics. 

Currently at the Film Archive mediagallery in Wellington, The Blue Room has shown in Dunedin and New Plymouth and will travel to Hastings City Art Gallery early next year.

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

It’s random. Most commonly, night time. 

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

IN response to this question, I sent out a message on Facebook and here are a few responses…

Ok good friends, can you answer this question for me? 'How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style? It's for an interview....

‘woah, scary. ok, here goes: Pippa has an eclectic, interesting, unique and original aesthetic. She has an eye for the beauty found in nature, native surroundings and the more ethereal levels of vision. Her style is genuine, caring and, I will use the word again, original. She shows a very deep level of understanding of the psychological and physiological states of her subjects, whether they be living beings or abstract connections. She is, without a doubt, a genius’

‘A social soothsayer, theatrical props spooked by social theory, a very pretty meaninglist, a wet pohutukawa flower dunked in oil, dragged over linen.’ ‘I should have said lighting fluid not oil. Sorry.’

‘Nice tone. Nice colours. A strange composition that obviously has a meaning to the artist. Thought provoking.’

‘I want to use spiritual, haunty, spooky words but it all seems to literal..i agree about the colour use, you have a beautiful palette!’

‘Luscious and enigmatic... ‘

‘Hey Pippa - I definitely can't improve on what has already been said, that's all brilliant - my initial thoughts are that your work often has 'otherworldly' qualities and that natural intuition plays a large part in your practice. ‘

‘The figuration of bird-headed beings and horses is disappearing into amorphous gloop; the warm breath of bubbles and cold breath of spectral passings.'

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

I think sharing ideas with people. Also, at a more intimate level, painting and drawing, working in workbooks on small watercolour drawings, thinking through ideas with materials and following a wandering trail...

How does your environment affect your work?

I’m quite strongly affected by my environment. I have to make it home in some way – either through relationships with people in the space, or by music, or the objects around me. Also, I like things to be stored logically, even though I don’t always achieve this!

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?


You've curated an upcoming exhibition The Blue Room that has shown in Dunedin and New Plymouth, what's it like to stage a touring exhibition? Has it been difficult?

I had a really good mentor through this process – Rob Garrett, whom I’ve known for a long time as an artist, teacher and arts manager. I approached him quite early on, anticipating that the logistics of managing a touring show as an independent curator was going to be challenging. He’s been a great practical and psychological supporter through the process, and I recommend independent curators to him!

There are lots of details to consider. It’s helpful to get on top of your documentation and time lines from the start. And to contact and confirm things with people religiously. Also, find whatever method of communication suits you best, to make sure that shyness or any other obstacle to communication (yours or other peoples), doesn’t slow down or derail the project.

The artists have all been really professional, and generous with their art-making and patient with the whole touring aspect. That has made the whole thing much easier than it could have been. It’s been easier not to have to go through lenders (although most people are pretty generous in my experience, curating a show where a lot of the work was already in private collections), but to be able to deal with the artists directly has been cool.

How did you select the artists included in The Blue Room?

A range of reasons. Some I knew personally, had worked with before and really respected and enjoyed their practice and was curious to see how they’d respond to the psychic art idea, whether it was something they normally worked with or not. Others I invited even though I didn’t know them personally, because they had made interesting work in this area. I wanted there to be a range of approaches in the exhibition, rather than a party line on psychic art.  Almost all the artists I contacted agreed to be in the show, so the signs were good from the start.

The show focuses on the 'psychic', why were you interested in this subject?

I’ve been interested in this area for a long time. Forever! It’s something that runs through our family – my ancestors in the Hokianga held séances in the 1920s and ‘30s,  and stories of those events have been passed down to our generation. We had quite a hippy childhood, and the romanticism of that, the utopian flavour, is an aspect that ties in to Spiritualism in NZ’s history, with the utopian, social reform thinking of late Victorian colonizers, of whom Spiritualists (and Millenial thinkers) were a suprisingly large proportion – including ministers of parliament, and early proto-feminists. Obviously the colonial utopian bubble burst pretty quickly, but it’s fascinating to look back at threads that started in the days of colonialism, resurfaced in the 1960s and ‘70s, and now are emerging again.

Another aspect that really interests me, and runs counter to the romanticism, or spectacle of the Spiritualist relationship to the paranormal, is how matter of fact some people are about it. I remember visiting my nieces grandparents, from Tuhoe and Ngati Maniapoto, and watching ‘Poltergeist’ on TV. Their response was to scoff at the Hollywood representation and say, yes, we’ve seen that happening before – it’s a logical consequence of breaking tapu.

I’d arrived all excited after a weekend hearing our uncle, who was visiting from overseas, talking about his adventures as a spiritual healer. It all seemed so glamorous and magical.  I was raving on about it, and the kuia’s response was really matter of fact – she’d been seeing spirits since she was six years old, and considered it part of everyday life. Her response was both deflating and affirming!

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

Be professional in dealing with people, diversify… buy lotto tickets.

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

I’ve found The Blue Room project really satisfying on a lot of levels – the personal relationships with the artists and supporters, on a professional development level with the consolidation of skills I already had, and ones I’ve learnt through managing this exhibition throughout the whole curatorial and creative process. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how a range of artists think about the ideas I’m really interested in, and been gratified and really appreciative of the support that is out there for this kind of project, and these artists.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

A painting called ‘Bright Cloud of Fulfillment’ by Eileen Leung. I like the optimism.  I’m inspired by people who can sustain their practice in the face of obstacles.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

I did apply to journalism school in Auckland and if I had been accepted I may have pursued that.

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

Waimarama in Hawkes Bay, and the place in my heart for my kids.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

One best way??? When friends are playing at parties, 2nd best is in the car on road trips.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

A dome – I’d pull some plastecine out of my back pocket to supplement the free materials…

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Here, have another wine

What’s your big idea for 2010?

More shows!  The Blue Room tour continues, and my own projects which I’ll keep quiet about until they’re confirmed…

  • Further information

The Blue Room

Curated by Pippa Sanderson
Featuring, Elle Loui August, Bekah Carran, Louise Clifton, Andrea du Chatenier, Violet Faigan, Lonnie Hutchinson, Saskia Leek, Louise Menzies, Dane Mitchell, Rebecca Pilcher, Johanna Sanders, Pippa Sanderson, Stuart Shepherd.

Film Archive mediagallery
17 October -  21 November 2009

Artist talk, Tuesday 27 October, 12:15pm

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

20 Oct 2009

The Big Idea Editor