Interview: Laree Payne, Weasel Gallery

We recently caught up with Laree Payne from Weasel Gallery, a new contemporary art space in Hamilton…

Hi Laree – we heard that you have recently opened a gallery in Hamilton, Weasel, please tell us a bit about the space and the work we could expect to see there

Weasel gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Hamilton’s CBD which exhibits the work of artists from around New Zealand. Much like the animal, the main gallery area is long and narrow. For this reason, Weasel’s exhibition calendar is predominantly composed of artists whose practice is wall based as opposed to object based. Exhibitions at Weasel gallery change every three weeks, so there is lots happening for our regular visitors.

We have to ask – how did the name come about?

In the second half of 2017, I was approached to open a temporary gallery space in Hamilton’s CBD in collaboration with another creative professional. The idea behind a temporary space was to make use of one of several vacant spaces in the city centre. The name Weasel came about as a reference to the rhyme, Pop goes the Weasel, and the idea of a pop-up space. Pop goes the weasel was a nonsensical song which was extremely popular during the mid-19th century. In addition, the name Weasel aims to reduce the common perception that contemporary art galleries are high-brow and esoteric. Weasel gallery is for everyone, including the non-art-expert majority. Through the name, we aim to give people an entry point; most people know what a weasel is!

What lead you to opening the gallery – was there a gap in the local scene that you recognised?

At the end of 2017 I completed my master’s in arts management through Whitecliffe College in Auckland. My dissertation is titled Contemporary art and meaning-making in New Zealand through which I researched how people make sense of contemporary art and how exhibiting institutions may serve their audiences in more effective ways (I believe Artists Alliance has a copy if anyone is interested!). On completion of my studies, I wanted to find a job in the Waikato where I could work between contemporary art and the audience however there was no where which I felt was quite the right fit. In response, I decided to open Weasel, and to bring what I could to our existing creative community. It appears others had similar feelings as several other spaces recently opened including Studio Two in Te Awamutu, Tacit in Hamilton central and Freit contemporary in Frankton. It has been really exciting to see Hamilton’s creative sector gain momentum and to contribute to that through Weasel.

What has been the hardest part of getting Weasel up and running?

260 Victoria Street was really run down when I gained the keys. Renovating the space and making it fit for a contemporary art gallery was part of the lease agreement which I was happy to take on. Thankfully I had amazing support from family and friends to take out walls, lift carpets, and clean throughout the Christmas period.  On the 23rd of February, after two months of renovations, Weasel opened the doors and had 300 people through over three hours, making it all well worth it!

…and the most rewarding?

Weasel has experienced so much support from the local community, it has been incredible. Through sponsorship offers and great turnouts to opening nights, it is clear that Hamilton has a strong desire to see new, creative, and independent businesses open and continue to operate in the CBD. Being able to contribute back into Hamilton has been an extremely rewarding process for me.

Have you got any tips for visitors to your neighbourhood?

It feels as though Hamilton has been living in Auckland’s shadow for some time, but I assure you, we have a lot to offer! With seven galleries in and around the CBD as well as the Waikato Museum, there is a lot to see and do when visiting Hamilton. Additionally, we have some great cafes and restaurants such as Duck Island, Grey Gardens, Rocket Coffee, and the new Mr Pickle in the amazing and newly developed River Bank Mall.

What is happening now at Weasel?

No Holiday is now showing at Weasel gallery and is running through to May 12th. No Holiday is a group exhibition involving three artists; Chelsea Pascoe, Nicholas Megchelse and Rachel Hope Peary. All past or present students of the Waikato Institute of Technology, the artists have been brought together as abstract minimalists who challenge conventional notions of painting. No Holiday explores the artists’ distinct approaches to painting which are intelligent, probing and aesthetically enjoyable.


Images courtesy Weasel, photographed by Holly Russell:

Images (clockwise from top left, ending with the centre work):

UNTITLED (YELLOW AND GREEN) Chelsea Pascoe, 2018, Tissue, pigment and polyurethane

UNTITLED (RED) Chelsea Pascoe, 2018, Tissue, pigment and polyurethane

SHE’S MY QUEEN, UNDRESSING IN THE SUN, Nicholas Megchelse, 2017, Oil on linen

ARE WE LOVERS WHO AREN’T IN LOVE, Rachel Hope Peary, 2018, Cotton voile, acrylic paint, oil pastel, ink, wooden frame with danish oil

I AM DRAWN BACK, Rachel Hope Peary, 2018, Cotton voile, acrylic paint, ink, aluminum frame

NOW I HAVE A SINKING FEELING, Rachel Hope Peary, 2018, Cotton voile, acrylic paint, oil pastel, ink, wooden frame with danish oil