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Thursday 4 February 2016
Paola King-Borrero

A muscular figure is bound to a tree, and although arrows pierce through his luminous skin, his eyes lift upwards towards the heavens. 

It is Saint Sebastian, a second-century commander in the Roman military who converted Romans to Christianity. The Emperor ordered Sebastian to be killed by tying him to a stake and using him as target practice.

Believed to be dead, miraculously he was discovered alive and nursed back to health. He continued to preach Christianity, and was eventually clubbed to death and his body was thrown into the sewer. His body is believed to be buried in the catacombs beneath Rome.

One of my favourite paintings in the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection is Guido Reni’s painting of Saint Sebastian. Painted around 1620 in Italian Baroque style, Reni portrays the emotions of the saint’s powerful faith and devotion, despite overwhelming odds.

The amount of knowledge I have acquired as a Volunteer Guide at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in the last year is overwhelming. The artworks I have encountered along the way have made me look at the world differently. Being a Volunteer Guide gives me the opportunity to share this world with our visitors. With just over 16,000 works of art in the collection, learning is a constant. Relating all this knowledge to our diverse visitors is very challenging, but also very rewarding. I enjoy communicating the world of the artist, their processes and use of materials, their time in history or the context in which their worlds were made. It is important to me to make sure that my tours are a memorable experience.

My most rewarding experiences have been the interactions that I have had with people on my tours. Their stories, information, reactions and sometimes their surprise, have resulted in the most inspiring and interesting discussions I can remember. By far, those discussions have been the best knowledge gained. Becoming a Volunteer Guide at Auckland Art Gallery has been one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done.