Photography and words by Yasmine Ganley @anyonegirl
Championing the idea that ‘art is a very personal experience’, Anna Miles has gracefully created a position in the industry that reflects this belief. Situated on the second floor of her home, Anna Miles Gallery sits below the kitchen and beside her bedroom. It is a physical example of how integrated art is in Anna’s everyday life.
Representing a range of artists - from jewellers and craftspeople to photographers, painters and video artists, their vibrant archive of works have become, in a sense, part of the family, complimenting Anna’s own personally acquired collection of objects and paintings — an act Anna believes to be ‘a form of being alive’. This sentiment could also stand for the way in which it feels to be inside her home slash gallery. A sensational mashing of family life and artistic expression, and neither in competition.
We visit Anna in the hours before she opens her gallery for the day. Our conversation wanders through from her family history, making children’s costumes, and stories surrounding intention and process. It was a joy to gain a glimpse into the world (and jewellery boxes!) of one of Auckland’s most renowned gallery owners.
Porto Jacket / Bowl-Vase-Vase, 2018 by Richard Stratton
What were the motivations for moving your gallery into your home? And how have you found this experience?
One day I sat down in my living room overlooking the oak trees in the Symonds St cemetery and realised I was living in an art district but commuting out of it (albeit on foot) to the gallery on High St. It made sense to make a change because it fitted with my principles. Art is a very personal experience, it is about belief — so I was not afraid to have the gallery in the building I live in.
Because of the close proximity of the two spaces, do you have any rituals in place to begin and finish your working day?
I carry the sandwich board out onto the street . . . My partner has what he calls an ‘affliction’, which means we share our house with his ever growing collection of pots, so I take a handmade mug across the street to Miller’s to pick up coffee, then the day begins.
Tell us about the current artwork on display, and why you have chosen these artists to share the space at one time.
The cabinets at the gallery were originally made to show ceramics at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin in 1925. This year I had the opportunity to acquire the second cabinet that had spent most of the last decade in an antique shop in Russell. To celebrate their reunion, I decided to fill them with thrilling new ceramics by two artists —Richard Stratton and Peter Hawkesby. Richard produced a group of elaborately constructed porcelain teapots that reflect his fascination with this object and its history as a connector of cultures. At the time Peter had been making a series of extraordinary ceramic ‘incinerators’ that are topped by halos with fluorescent stripes. They are flabbergastingly joyful objects — so seemed appropriate to the occasion. On the wall are drawings by Adrienne Vaughan. Like Peter’s work, they are filled with a palpable delight in mark-making. Their pleasure is immediate, but it is the result of a deep individual investigation of the possibilities of painting.
Aluminium Bangle by Roy Mason (from Fingers), Bowl-Vase-Vase, 2018 by Richard Stratton / Else Jacket and Niva Pant in Cinnamon
In what ways do you dispel the preconceived idea of an 'art dealer'?
A dealer may sound like a pretty shady, intimidating character. I want it to be comfortable to visit my gallery and for people to feel welcome here. Appreciating art is a very creative activity that involves respect for the views of others. Collectors and appreciators are as diverse in their approaches as artists. Their non-homogeneity is inspiring.
I think we live in an unfortunately consumeristic world, however the decision to acquire art is not like any other consumer decision — it is a form of being alive.
How do you enjoy your local surroundings of Upper Queen Street / K Road / Newton / the park etc?
You can smell the coffee roasting from the front door. On one side is the leafy wild space of the cemetery on the other is the social world. The part I know best is the village of small businesses. One of my sons has a job after school with Tony and Alison who run the Cross St Market, my younger one has been walking the dog of one of the other gallery owners.
Spence Dress in Lush Green / Octavia Cook Cameos 2003 - and ‘Fro’ Brooch, 2017 / Craig McIntosh, Granite Bangle, 2017 and Warwick Freeman Argillite Ring
Your jewellery collection is sublime. Can you please tell us the story behind a couple of the pieces you are wearing?
Jewellery intrigues me because it is probably the most social art, but also the most private. I have learnt most of what I know from Octavia Cook whose work I have shown since the Gallery first opened. Ten years ago she was commissioned to make cameo portraits of ten year old twins. Recently when the twins turned twenty, their mother commissioned Octavia to make a second pair of portraits. The resulting four works are incredible heirlooms.
In the photo I am wearing a bangle by Kobi Bosshard and a ring by Warwick Freeman. The ring was my mother’s. She wore it with the same Kobi bangle. Sometimes when I see my hands on the keyboard or steering wheel, I think about her. My mother was very interested in design. One of the things she taught us was — You should not save beautiful things for special occasions — You should use them every day. It makes me happy that her ring is part of what she would call my every day ‘uniform’. I think she would also be pleased to know that I now show the work of her ring’s maker.
Can you talk about any exhibitions you are looking forward to hosting this year?
I have a feast of painting coming — Cat Fooks, Barbara Tuck, Johanna Pegler — rag rugs by the superlative bag maker, Vita Cochran, and extraordinary ceramics by Peter Hawkesby.