Waiheke Headland exhibition shows best of New Zealand sculpture

Nowhere in the publicity did it say that Peter Jackson had entered a work in the Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition. But there it was ...

Headland Sculpture on the Gulf
Matiatia, Waiheke Island
Until February 17th

Nowhere in the publicity did it say that Peter Jackson had entered a work in the Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition. But there it was, on the headland, a Hobbit building complete with squealing Hobbit children prancing around and playing on the swings which hung from the creaking construction, cobbled together from bits of timber.

But these heightened expectations were dashed when it was revealed that the work was actually by the mere mortal of an artist, Gregor Kregar who had created the Middle Earth structure.

Constructed out of eleven tonnes of recycled timber “Pavilion Structure” owes much to the traditional children’s tree house, the elegant European pavilion and the jerry built bachs of Waiheke.

The work has much in common with the artist’s previous work that sees him working within the area of the cultural landscape looking at architecture, cultural symbols and emblems with an element of playfulness and wit, giving the everyday object a surreal and mythic quality.

“Pavilion Structure” is one of several works in this year’s exhibition which have taken an architectural; approach.

There is also Mathew Muir’s “April 1975” ($8300) a cute little old bach, bigger than a dolls house but not big enough for a play house. It is equipped with table, chair, bunks and miniature copies of 1970’s magazines as well as one of the artists own paintings – a retro painting of an old bach.

The work is a nice commentary and homage to the fast disappearing Waiheke beachside minimalist holiday home.

Waiheke also features in Regan Gentry’s recreation of the facade of the old Rocky Bay Store – an architectural appropriation which is located on the roadside overlooking Matiatia, the front windows of the store becoming a viewing window of the bay below.

This harbor view is also a feature of the remarkably sophisticated "Bunker Vision Hi Fi" ($15,000) by Jonathan Organ and Jessica Pearless. The black building has a slot in one wall much like that of a maimai or one of the many gun emplacements which dot Auckland’s coastline.

The exterior of the room has a façade which is based on one of Colin McCahon's Angels and Beds paintings, one which is subtitled HiFi because the shapes appear to spell out the words.

The original; McCahon works were about protection, the light of knowledge and passing from light into darkness. These notions are reinforced by the inclusion of a bold pink geometric work by Pearless on an internal wall.

Other architectural works include Terry Stringer’s “Shrine for the Sea. Soil and Sky”, a three sided temple or folly featuring a head, foot and hand.

There are other common themes to the exhibition with many works referring to figurative elements while others reference the history and the ecology of the island and the environment in general. One other major theme is the idea of communication.

On the opening day the most obvious and literal of these was the work by Fatu Feu’u with his “Waiheke Island Sway”. The work itself does not have the power of most of his sculptural; work consisting of three cartoon-like guitar shapes in red, yellow and blue ($11,000 each).

What made the work successful was the presence of two grass skirted female musician/ dancers / singers who performed mid-twentieth songs of the Pacific accompanied by some hula dancing. This bit of Pacific on Waiheke was a clever and witty take on colonialism, cultural appropriation and exploitation.

The most successful work of this sort was “Field Notes” by Carolyn Williams. Dozens of delicate metal rods suspended between the bough of a tree and the ground with each rod having a metal shape representing a sound which the artist had transcribed from sounds she had recorded in the environment around the tree. These shapes hovered in the air, a physical representation of the sounds one could hear.

Her work had a companion piece in Sharonagh Montrose’s “A Weave of Words” which consisted of a small grove in the bush  where which the artist had created a soundscape which could have been pre recorded or sounds picked up from elsewhere on the trail and fed back into the grove.

Several of the works were interactive with works such as Aaron McConchie’s "I Am Auckland" ($11,430) which initially looked like a giant scrum machine. The work consists of three large wooden paddles which can be manually manipulated by levers. The work is like a primitive form of semaphore, enabling participants to signal across the harbour to those on the mainland.

The most innovative of these notions about communication is Kazu Nakagawa’s “A Play – Catwalk” in which the artist has chosen two curators who in turn have designed costumes to perform on the large outdoor catwalk. The whole piece is a combination of fashion show and promenade with the audience as spectators, voyeurs and participants.

Other works in the show include an Phil Price’s elegant  “Snake” ($180,000, David McCracken’s “Portrait if Traction and Transmission ($75,000), the only work which makes use of the waters edge and Jeff Thomson’s sprawling “Knotty” ($25,000) which looks like a reworked and repainted version of his large work which sprawled down the hill above Matiatia six years ago.

Among the other thirty works are sculptures by Peter Lange, Matt Ellwood, Sarah Brill, Nic Moon and Graham Bennett

The New York Times recently voted Sculpture on the Gulf thirty-fifth on a list of 100 great places to see. After this show it will probably be up around twenty-fifth.