Monday, 9 February 2009

Headland - Sculpture on the Gulf

The bi-annual Sculpture in the Gulf Exhibition, on Waiheke Island now renamed, Headland, is running from the 23rd January to the 15th February. So there is time to catch the ferry from downtown Auckland.

I did it on Saturday just gone. It being a beautiful sunny day, I/we had to code share the ferry with half of Auckland heading out to the Waiheke wine festival. On the way there and back the Waitemata was choka with all manner of boats, some of which were trying to keep up with the Loise Vuitton Pacific Series races.

Elsewhere, nearer the Tamaki estuary, a whole flock of even smaller boat were clustered up in a stationary huddle fishing for snapper. And just for laughs, on the way back they were joined by a flurry of kids out on their P Class wee yachts, who in turn had some competition with a windsurfer competition out of, I think , Mission Bay.

The Headland, Sculpture on the Gulf, exhibition is now in its fourth iteration. I went to the one two years ago. The one before that, 2005 got people talking, while the one before that was, I suspect, a bit of a secret.

2009/ 110 proposal - 26 artists
Those days are gone. Now it is a total class act the planning for which officially kicked off in mid 2008 when the selectors, Jenny Harper, Christchurch Art Gallery, Helen Kedgley, Pataka Museum of Arts and Culture, Poriruia, and Justin Paton, Christchurch Art Gallery, met on the island to choose 26 artists from 110 proposals.

The artisis were then given 6 months to create their work, with the help of the ASB Trust and Creative New Zealand. The 26 works where then shipped to the island and installed on the headland by the arts and the project team.

Location - location - location
The installation process must have been fun, as must the selection of the sites by the artists. To get this you need to imagine the location, a wonderful coastal walkway that sneaks around 2 k of some of the most spectacular coastal scenery you will see in New Zealand. And believe me, there is a lot of competition.

Waiheke Island is a half hour ferry ride from down town Auckland. It was originally populated in the 1950's and 60's by a whole alternative sub-culture who typically lived in small beach houses called baches.

These days a classic kiwi bach on Waiheke, if you can still find one, will set you back $NZ400/500,000 . More likely it will have been replaced by a modern house which is occupied by a family who commute to Auckland. Or else, they have changed the site to a rather splendid holiday house. If you want to check out some of these, try here, or here.

However, most of the houses and the newer developments are on the south or north of the island. The Sculpture park/walkway for Headland snakes around the south west and is , for now, mostly still empty, or for sale.

Headland the exhibition
Headland, the exhibition, starts on the beach at the Matiatai Ferry. You then walk up through the bush up on the edge of the sculpture walkway and then skirt your way around the headland looking out for the installations.

They are not hard to see - either standing proud on a headland, or tucked into the fold of the hill, looking out onto the water and inviting any amount of introspection from the line of visitors who snake around the path looking at and for the art.

I loved it. Every one of them was worth the effort of the climb. If asked, however, then I would offer the following three co-favorites.

Special Forces on Patrol, Lucy Bucknall

First up, for me, has to be the totally brilliant, Special Forces on Patrol, by Lucy Bucknall.
These are eight phosphor bronze meerkat soldiers, peaking out of the grass in various poses of military alertness, with the weaponry and bush equipment to match. They are just brilliant.

On the one hand, each figures uniqueness has a playful watchfulness as if trying to stand up straight and make a big statement. On the other , despite the sun, and the surroundings, there is real menace peaking out of the grass. And you can't help it - thoughts on the arrogance of recent military/political mindsets, come flooding to mind. These wee guys are scary. See here.

The Eternal , Graham Fletcher
In complete contrast, comes my second choice, the beautiful life size figure, The Eternal, by Graham Fletcher. New Zealand born Samonan, Fletcher already has a big reputation for works which explore the cultural serrations of New Zealand. The piece is a black standing figure - it has a wonderful silent intensity which stares out onto Waitemata seascape and then beyond out onto the Pacific. Eternal indeed! See here

Learning to Breath Under Water
I also loved the three figures from Richard Wedkind who represented his theme learning to breathe underwater. They sat on the ground with a diver's intensity, with the top most visible one almost puffed up in a lovely arrogant breath of control, which then diminished as the two other figures take over your eye. Brilliant against the blue of the sky. See here

The rest?
All of the works moved me. As for the next step - the rest is up to you - either have a look through some of the entries, here, or better still, if you can, get yourself over the island this coming weekend!


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