Neil Miller, “Te tiaho o Matariki” (the brightness of the Pleiades):
The sculpture represents Pleiades in the form of a growing vine, with the stars of Matariki forming the fruit on the vine. It honours the city’s first inhabitants (Garden Place was first used by Maori as a garden and observatory); and celebrates the horticultural heritage of the name of the city’s civic plaza: Garden Place. The curving vine-like form of the sculpture also references the nearby Waikato River which snakes through the city.
At the unveiling of Neil Miller's new sculpture "Te tiaho o Matariki" (the brightness of the Pleiades) in Garden Place, Hamilton on the morning of 25 November 2011, the sun came out for literally a few seconds and shone on the face of the sculpture. This happened at the very moment the local Maori Kapa Haka group, who were rounding off the Iwi blessing of the work, broke into this ancient canoe-hauling chant "Toia Mai":
Ā, tōia mai,
Ki te urunga,
Ki te moenga,
Ki te takoto rungai,
Te waka! Hi!
Ah, drag it here
To the entry
To the berth
Up to the resting place,
Set it down.
The canoe! Yeah!
Artist’s concept statement:
The scale of the sculpture for Garden Square in Hamilton can only be described as monumental and I have looked for local concepts that are correspondingly epic.
The area was first used by Maori as a garden and an observatory, in particular as a lookout for the rising of the constellation known variously as Pleiades to the European, Matariki or Mata Ariki to Maori, and as Subaru to the Japanese; almost every culture observes and acknowledges this ambiguous cluster of stars. The oldest dateable record of the star system is on a bronze disk found in Germany dating back 3,600 years.
The motivations for observing Matariki are both spiritual and practical and the practical aspect gives the square its current name, but is also related to its earliest usage. The timing and visual appearance of the constellation was a guide, for Maori, for planting on the site of the existing square.
My design is a sculptural manifestation of the Pleiades in the form of a growing vine, the strong, winding tendril is also a visual reminder of the importance of the nearby Waikato River. The stars of the Matariki appear as the fruit on this extraordinary plant.
Commissioned by Hamilton City Council:
“Te tiaho o Matariki” (the brightness of the Pleiades) by Neil Miller, was commissioned by Hamilton City Council and curated by Rob Garrett as part of Hamilton’s refurbishment of its civic plaza, Garden Place, through the CityHeart capital works programme.
The project was a public art milestone for the Council as it was the first major artwork to be funded through the Council’s recently established percent for art scheme. The scheme stipulates that a minimum of 1% of the total capital project budget should be allocated to a public art component to ensure that all significant city projects ‘create spaces, interactions and an aesthetic that inspires and motivates’.
The project was also the first major work to be developed from Council’s 10-year Public Art Plan, a high level curatorial framework for public art across the city, written by Rob Garrett in 2010.
About the artist:
Neil Miller trained under leading New Zealand sculptor Greer Twiss and graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1988. Since graduating he has made and exhibited studio sculpture, taught and undertaken a number of major public art and private commissions in New Zealand and overseas. His work is represented in many major New Zealand collections.
Artist: Neil Miller
Title: “Te tiaho o Matariki” (the brightness of the Pleiades), 2011
Location: Garden Place, Hamilton, New Zealand
Curator: Rob Garrett
Commissioner: Hamilton City Council
Council project manager: Jeff Myles
CityHeart lead contractors: Downer and Reset Urban Design