Magazine article Sculpture

Auckland's "Headland" Sculpture on the Gulf

Magazine article Sculpture

Auckland's "Headland" Sculpture on the Gulf

Article excerpt

The relationship between people and the land is an abiding theme in New Zealand art. A number of works selected for the 2013 installment of "headland" Sculpture on the Gulf, a biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition held on Waiheke Island in Auckland, New Zealand, continue that tradition with a variety of forms and approaches. While some of the works prompt a feeling of foreboding, others strike a more whimsical note. Some address environmental and cultural issues; others critique the interaction between art and individuals, exposing the effects-often unexpected-of actions and reactions. For example, Graham Bennett's OVERVIEW OVERLOOK OVERSEE favors mechanical invention and intervention; Nic Moon's Breath takes a quietly contemplative tone; and JeffThomson's Knotty looks to a personal, interactive approach-as does Regan Gentry's Death Row.

The towering, Cor-ten steel figures in Moon's Breath sway rhythmically in the wind, gazing out to sea from the cliffedge. Elongated like the trunks of tall trees, they stand in silent contemplation. Leaf-skeleton patterns derived from indigenous trees are laser cut into the torsos of the figures, creating large, lung-like openings. The outer edges mimic the tooth patterns of the old pit saws used by forest-clearing settlers. In a formal context, these human/tree/sawblade hybrids reference Giacometti's The Forest (1950). In environmental terms, they address the relationship between carbon dioxide-breathing plants and oxygen-breathing humans. Each figure is capped by a subtly carved stone head, inspired by Brancusi's Sleeping Muse (1909-10). The heads create a counterbalance to the stark, gestural forms, expediting a sensation of slight swaying in the figures. Like elders stooping tenderly to speak to a young child, the works bend gently in the sea breeze. The relatively flat site allows viewers to join the figures in quiet reverie.

Viewing sculpture involves developing a perspective, being on watch-looking, seeing, engaging. In OVERVIEW OVERLOOK OVERSEE, Bennett extends these concepts to environmental issues, a context in which attention and intention determine action. What shapes your point of view, colors your perspective? What plays on your conscience? Where do you pull your weight? Taking these pivotal principles, Bennett creates a reciprocity with the structure of his work by considering how measurement informs our perspective or point of view. The sculpture finds its origins in the function of pulleys, bearings, levers, counterweights, and manual implements for gauging weight, time, and place.

Bennett's clock-and sextantlike faux mechanisms are precise, strong, and weather resistant, but essentially ineffectual. A life-size, kitset figure-an elevated "planking" man of little form or substance-completes this nonsensical apparatus. The figure rotates freely, its counterbalanced weight enabling it to oscillate with the elements, so that it seems to move independently of the attached measuring scales. As well as being kinetic, it is also interactive. The mechanisms in the sculpture are out of reach, but a pulley system allows viewers to alter the reading on the last quadrant of the environmental clock. Viewers can manipulate the height of the figure by pulling on a handle; as the adjustment registers and the figure rises and falls, the work raises question about the relationship between man and measure. …

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