Friday, August 14, 2009

An Exploration of Place

Image Courtesy of Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua - Whanganui Around twenty-two years ago when I lived in Wanganui, I worked with now-Christchurch-based New Zealand sculptor, Andrew Drummond, weaving willows to create the sculptural pieces for his incredible Dome installation at Wanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery. Andrew was the Tylee Cottage Artist-in-Residence at the time. Ever since then, I have been intrigued to see how the many artists since have responded to the gallery’s Dome space – I’ve even featured one or two of them here on this blog (just click Sarjeant Gallery in the label line below if you’d like to see them). Now it’s the turn of celebrated senior New Zealand artist, Bill Culbert. Culbert (b.1935), divides his time between London and France and this work – Bill Culbert 180˚ x 2 Whanganui (shown above) – is the only one he has completed for a museum during his time in New Zealand for the launch of the monograph of his life’s work, Making Light Work,” which has been written by Ian Wedde and published by Auckland University Press. (He has also created a work which is showing at Auckland's Sue Crockford Gallery). Culbert spent three days in Wanganui back in 2008 noting ‘the ordinary’ in his surroundings – “vernacular architecture, tyre marks and architectural debris in salvage yards” – at the same time sensing and noting the power of the Whanganui River that runs through the town. According to the Sarjeant's senior curator, Greg Anderson, Culbert's resulting installation within the space is "an exploration of space, spatial reference and harmonies of theory and concrete reality. It is a re-telling of his experience and understanding of Wanganui, firmly and critically placed within the Dome area, which acts as the work's frame and context." “It is one of the characteristics of Culbert’s work that, as an artist, he seems to be ‘plugged in’ to the power and vigour of places and objects,” says Greg Anderson. “This kind of understanding, of the nature of things, imbues his installations with a depth greater than their sole sculptural appeal……In his pictures (eight large scale photographs of local sites) of Wanganui scenes, in his placement of fluorescent light tubing, he gives us and asks us, in our mind’s eye, to take a journey to the places he’s found and to experience the emotions and sensations he discovered during his Wanganui expedition.” Culbert’s show at Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua - Whanganui runs until November 29, 2009.

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