The exhibition runs from Saturday 20th May to Tuesday 6th June, 2017 (extended a day as gallery closed on Queen's Birthday)
This collection of photographs explores the interior spaces of Lambhill Homestead. Through a personal photographic investigation, these quiet exposures attempt to reveal the many layers of time, history and memory present in this building.
For as long as I can remember I have been looking at the outside of Lambhill. Situated just off Warrengate Road near Fordell, it is visible from most parts of my parent’s farm, positioned high on a hill facing west toward Whanganui. It sits comfortably in the rural landscape just like the old hawthorn tree hedges that still line parts of the lanes and fences of the land. The trees now permanently bent in the prevailing westerly wind are slowly making their way closer to the earth, but the house still stands. Lambhill continues to hold a prominent part in the history of the rural area and in my own family history today.
First built in 1856 then rebuilt in 1881 by the Allison family, the property was sold to my Great-great grandfather Nathaniel Sutherland in 1886, who along with his brother farmed land in the surrounding district. It remained much in its original state over the following hundred and fifteen years, lived in by my Great-great Aunts for a long period of that time. Now owned by the Godfreys, for the past twelve years they have lived in the homestead, which is overflowing with New Zealand colonial history.
My personal connection to Lambhill is grounded by my Sutherland family history but even more so by its exterior physical presence in my life. My encounters with the interior of Lambhill have been brief in comparison, spread out over a long period of time. Others have mostly informed my ‘memories’ of the internal spaces of the house (my Grandma Lewanna’s recollections and my mothers stories from her school holidays spent with the old aunts). To enter the front door fresh without taking these stories and memories with me was impossible while undertaking this project. It was a challenge to separate out the familiar and unknown photographically, pushing my own sense of objectivity once again with the camera playing the role of facilitator of these memories both real and imagined.
Today the interior of the house is a unique space where the present, past and future is suspended in every room. The current owners have carefully preserved the building, complete with peeling wallpaper and creaky floorboards. No attempt has been made to cover up or hide its original being. This allows the visitor to experience the structure and appreciate the layers of history in its walls. Dispersed among the many rooms are combinations of historical photographs, found artefacts and personal family objects from the current inhabitants; reflecting Lambhill’s present embodiment as part home/part living museum. This dichotomy of states creates an intriguing space to engage with photographically.
The resulting works in this exhibition offer an intimate suggestion of the interior spaces of Lambhill. The prints are pinned directly to the gallery wall, connecting these works with the homeowner’s own interaction with materiality. By choosing to display these images in their raw physical form it creates a dialogue with the role of the photographic document in personal history and the everyday. Through carefully selecting an abstract view of the interior, details of texture and subtleties of light are exposed. This creates an open space where potential memories can be mediated, a space where a latent energy can be reengaged with in every moment of viewing. This level of interminable engagement and potential is what drives me to photograph. With Lambhill, where time stands still and moves forward again in the same instance, there could not be a better place to explore this facet of photography, especially since it is from within a part of my own family history.
Special thanks to Janette Godfrey for her support of this project
Peter Ireland's review of the Whanganui showing of this exhibition
Samantha Matthews is a photographer currently based in Dunedin, who grew up on a rose nursery and farm near Whanganui. Her present work deals with the role of place and the revisit within her photographic practice, which also seeks to continue a conversation with the nature of photography and its relationship to tension. She graduated with a Master of Art and Design degree with honours from AUT University in 2013, holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Art from the Dunedin School of Art and a Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging degree from UCOL. Since completing her Masters she has regularly held solo exhibitions in both Dunedin and her hometown Whanganui including ‘Don’t Quite Belong’ (2014) and ‘From Fordell’ (2015). Samantha has won several awards from the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography Iris awards and in 2014 was selected as a finalist for the National Contemporary Art Award.