NZ Sculpture OnShore is a biennial outdoor exhibition of the work of New Zealand artists across all genres and disciplines. Since its inception in 1995 the exhibition has become a major event on Auckland's North Shore and one of New Zealand’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibitions.
Guided tours by Curator Rob Garrett at NZ Sculpture OnShore 2012; photos by Jan McEwan.
Proceeds from the 2012 NZ Sculpture OnShore exhibition contribute to the work of Women's Refuges throughout New Zealand
Heather Henare (2nd from right) accepts $110,000 donation for Women's Refuges of NZ from Sally Dewar, Erich Bachmann and Alix Bachmann for NZ Sculpture OnShore and Friends of Women's Refuges Trust at a ceremony in Hesketh Henry offices, Auckland, 04 April 2013.
Rob Garrett, Erich Bachmann, Heather Henare, Alix Bachmann with the presentation of $110,000 to Women's Refuges of New Zealand.
Rob Garrett in the recording booth at Radio NZ for an interview with Kathryn Ryan on the National Programme's "Nine to Noon" 13 November 2012.
Each year the delightful creativity of artists imposes an unexpected or at least an unplanned, flavour on this biennial exhibition. It is not as if flavour itself is unexpected, but which flavour, or flavours, will emerge, is unknown at the outset of planning for the exhibition. No curatorial theme is given to the artists in advance; no creative limitations are set. To the contrary, artists are selected on the basis of their own interests, ideas and their recent work. Some artists are selected from an open call; and others are invited or shoulder-tapped directly for one reason or another, including to ensure that new faces participate, and to fill gaps in the variety of types of art selected from the open call. Many of the artists directly invited are emerging artists that I have spotted in the preceding years; and I am interested to see them develop a project for the site that brings their usual art school and gallery practice into the outdoors for the first time.
With the resulting variety of art forms and diversity of artists, it is always interesting to see themes emerge from the growing collection of ideas and artworks themselves. This year is the year of the menagerie. One third of the artworks involve all manner of creatures, large and small; from a a life-size elephant to a cloud of microscopic virus particles (virions). There are schooling eels, a bellbird, sheep, a vulture, a whale, bugs and a stick insect, pateke (brown teal), kotuku (white heron), kawau (black shag), huia, boxing and running hares, giant bird eggs, a dolphin word game, a snake charmer, gulls, frogs and swallows, a dove, aliens, domestic garden birds, piwakawaka (fantail), kiwi, swamp creatures including a kingfisher, a sea lion, a bull, Chihuahuas, a birdman and a dog-man.
This year’s playful and whimsical collection of creatures suits the easy-going nature of the site and the sense of ease and well-being that pervades the North Shore. Yet there are also other, edgier elements running through the exhibition. Of course there is also an inherent paradox between pleasure and need, fun and urgency that always accompanies Sculpture OnShore because of the exhibition’s dual purpose: to present the best art; and to support the needs of New Zealand’s women and children seeking refuge from harm. This paradox at the core of our purpose is reflected too in the paradoxical character of contemporary art which can delight and put us at ease just as readily it can challenge and trouble us. These are contrasts that do not require resolution; and in this year’s exhibition, alongside the works that have, unplanned, composed a delightful menagerie, you will find works that speak to our hearts and minds in deeper, challenging, questioning and sometimes troubling ways (yet always accompanied by a beauty that seduces and inspires).
Without doubt, as the exhibition has been opened up to the full variety of contemporary art forms since 2008; and since then has increasingly played host to artists’ site-specific installations alongside more familiar forms; the character and history of site itself has become a powerful source of inspiration for many artists. In 2010 and again this year, dozens of artists have devised new projects that respond to and reflect the many human stories associated with the cliff-top heritage park and its long history in the defence of Auckland against real and imagined military threats. Some artists have also found profoundly moving ways to connect us to the social ills that continue to make the work of New Zealand Women’s Refuges pressing and beneficial. In 2010, such artworks provided rich talking points for a diverse and inquisitive audience; and we expect that this year’s exhibition will provide an equally rich spectrum of experiences.
Whether playful or challenging, humorous or disturbing, the art experience is one that can ground our souls, awaken our imagination, and reach down to deep wells of pleasure within ourselves, at the same time as opening us to things that are unfamiliar and strange. Whether these works delight or puzzle, I am confident that the artists’ evident passion, thoughtfulness and creativity will provide many opportunities for wonder and lively conversation.
Don Abbott's article "Providing Shelter" on the NZ Sculpture OnShore 2012 exhibition in Art New Zealand (No 145 Autumn 2013, pp24-27).
Donna Turtle Sarten's beautiful yet confronting site-specific project "Black and White and Red All Over" (2012) consists of two parts. One part is 1,040 powder-coated aluminium "Kiwi" bird shapes painted in black, white and a Maori motif, hanging from the branches of a spreading Pohutukawa tree; the birds are hung close together so that they chime as they knock against each other in a breeze. The other part is also made of 1,040 Kiwi shapes, though these are uniformly red, planted beneath the tree, radiating out from its trunk like veins, tracing the path of the root lines of the tree.
Though NZ Sculpture OnShore raises funds for the work of New Zealand Women's Refuges, the exhibition has never been themed to address issues of domestic violence. However, this Donna Turtle Sarten's project stands out for the way it has created a strong and sensual aesthetic statement while at the same time confronting the issues of violence towards children that lie at the heart of the exhibition's charitable cause.
The 1,040 Kiwi birds hanging in the tree in Sarten's installation represent the number of young children killed through domestic violence in New Zealand since the year 1912. The second part, under the tree, quantifies the artist's challenge to our society, by representing the next wave of children who will be killed unless we are able to change this awful trend.
“New Zealand has the third highest rate of infanticide (the killing of young infants) in the OECD; and half of all children killed by their caregivers in New Zealand are Maori [Note 1]. Maori ethnicity increases the likelihood of being killed six times for boys and three times for girls [Note 2]. When Donna Sarten told me that she wanted to develop a sculpture which represents the profile New Zealand’s infanticide rates, I encouraged her to include a Maori dimension. This is because the disproportionately high rate of Maori child homicide is one of the most startling aspects of our child maltreatment profile. 1040 kiwis hang in the tree’s branches to represent the total number of children killed by their caregivers in New Zealand since 1912. 520 are decorated with a koru pattern to represent Maori children. On the ground are 1040 red kiwis – representing the next generation of New Zealand children at risk if we allow the abuse of our children to continue. The sculpture is deliberately provocative but also carries a message of hope. As our awareness of the dynamics of child maltreatment in Aotearoa increases, so too should our commitment to keeping children safe within families and communities. Every one of us has a part to play, and we must take action to protect children when we know they are not safe.” [Anton Blank, Executive Director, Ririki (Maori child advocacy organisation).]
Note 1: www.areyouok.org.nz
Note 2: Mavis J Duncanson, Don A R Smith, Emma Davies, Death and serious injury by assault of children aged under 5 years in Aotearoa New Zealand: A review of international literature and recent findings, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Wellington, 2009
Rob Garrett was first invited to curate the Sculpture OnShore biennial in 2008, and again in 2010. During these years he raised the standing of the exhibition in the arts sector; brought a new focus on emerging artists within the mix of artists; commissioned a programme of site-specific installations; and fostered a greater diversity of high quality art forms.
His three-term curatorial tenure has established the exhibition as a fresh and energetic snap-shot of contemporary New Zealand art practice; and one that attracts a diverse art-interested audience. One interesting fact revealed through the 2010 audience survey is that 40% of exhibition visitors say they never go to galleries.
The 2012 exhibition builds on the strength, diversity and interest of the previous two exhibitions with a selection of art works and site-specific projects that have largely been developed specifically for Sculpture OnShore.
Dates: 8-18 November 2012.
Curator: Rob Garrett
Curatorial Intern: Zoe Hoeberigs
Installation Team Leader: Glenn Heenan
Children’s Programme: Jill Cahill and Michelle Male
Event produced by: NZ Sculpture OnShore Ltd for Friends of Women’s Refuges Trust (FOWR)
NZSOS Event Manager: Jan McEwan
NZSOS Board Chair: Sue Harvey
FOWR Trust Chair: Alix Bachmann
Number of volunteers: 227
Number of artists / collectives: 109
Number of artworks / projects: 119
Number of visitors:
Number of days exhibition open: 11 (8-18 November 2012)
Winner of People's Choice Award: "Kashin" by Jack Marsden Mayer