Friday, July 30, 2010

When Art Illuminates

I couldn't have been happier when I discovered this neon sculpture by Paul Hartigan in the Faculty of Engineering at Auckland University, as I walked down Symonds Street one wintry afternoon recently. Everything that I love had come together in one place - interesting architecture, glass, art, old/new, skeletal trees and, best of all, a tangle of fascinating reflections - layer upon layer of image, form amd texture.
I had already spent over an hour photographing the dynamic shapes and shadows of winter trees marching up the face of architecture old and new, so finding this whimsy of glowing red forms cavorting across the street and climbing the bare trees outside, was the perfect end to my street wander.
The work itself is Colony 2004 And Hartigan (b.1953) says the following in his concise artist statement:
"I made Colony to enhance and counterpoint the monumentalism of its site: the lecture theatre and surrounding buildings in the Faculty of Engineering. This expansive neon light drawing adds a sense of transition and movement to the space. Clustered elements radiate from a point, then travel towards the perimeter, morphing from semi-figurative motifs to abstract-surrealist gestures.
"Rendered by my trademark graphic style, a synthesis of writing, pictographs and abstraction, the forms appear random, chaotic or free-form but are actually highly considered and carefully placed. The title suggests a collection of related entities with similar goals cohabitating in a new found territory. I chose neon gas for its vital 'living fire' quality. The incendiary persimmon colour of the tubes is the chromatic opposite of the tinted green glass encapsulating the space."
I returned to this work three times while I was in Auckland, every time inspired again - not only for the way it so successfully captures the nature of its 'busy, colonised' environment but simply because I was so drawn to it and the way it appears to 'move and dance' away from its base, to fully interact with that environment via a set of ever-moving, ever-changing reflections. Lovely!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Winter Vines - Marlborough

Drop me off in the middle of a wine region anywhere in the country - anywhere in the world for that matter - and I'll be as happy as a pig in mud, as I wander about taking photographs.
On my recent road trip around New Zealand (just on the turn of autumn) I was somewhat hampered by a strict timetable but I still managed to come home with more vineyard photographs than I care to admit to. These shots were taken in the Wairau Rver Region, in Marlborough, just south of Blenheim, where there has been an explosion of vine planting in recent years. If you stand on any high point here, you'll see vines marching across the landscape in soldier-like rows, as far as the eye can see. That holds for most parts of Marlborough actually - a region that, in the last 25 years, has established itself as one of the world's premier wine-producing regions, responsible for over 50% of New Zealand's total wine production. There are now over 110 wineries in the region - probably more since I acquired that statistic and if you're keen to know more, check

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's a Sign!

A Barking Mad Moment in Wellington
I've always had a soft spot for this sign outside the capital's
One Red Dog Cafe

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Glass House

There's a glass house-like fragility about Auckland's Britomart transport centre that seems to me, to be the perfect foil for hefty, snorting buses and lumbering trains. I've photographed it many times, in multiple weather conditions. And when I'm tired of the big picture, I home in on the details.
I find the crazy mishmash of shimmering horizontals and verticals visually compelling.
Blue against silver, silver against blue, equally so.
Solid - Transparent
Short - Tall
And a lone walker thrown in for good measure.
To give an appropriate sense of scale.
And amid all those verticals, that one horizontally-inclined lamp.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More From the Corrugated Iron Files

Having written about architecture for assorted magazines for many years, I often find myself fantasising about the sort of 'ideal house' I would build for myself given an endless budget. I invariably come back to three key elements - trees, water and wood. More recently, corrugated iron and the the simple, pleasing forms of rural architecture have conspired to test my passion for the former. Now I'm thinking of building two houses - it seems the only way. Because at this point, a corrugated iron barn with a wooden interior, suspended in a tree hanging over water seems a stretch - even for me.
And so I continue to photograph corrugated iron buildings new and old. These shots were taken near the small Victorian town (as in the state of Victoria) of Woodend, an hour north of Melbourne, in Australia. I love the mismatched, patchwork nature of many of the old corrugated farm buildings. It's a durable material that lends itself to re-use, over and over again, and farms in both New Zealand and Australia offer a constant parade of that sort of inter-generational material economy. I'm just home from another road trip around New Zealand - two months on the road - and I'm already regretting the number of farm buildings I sailed past without stopping - all good fodder for my lively imagination and my dreams of building the perfect house. (I've written about corrugated iron on this blog a number of times. If you're interested in reading more, click on Corrugated Iron in the label line below).

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Place in the Hills

Every so often when you're on the road, you find a place that seems to 'fit' - a place you'd like to curl up in and stay in. Tauranga's Ridge Country Retreat is one of those places for me. I first discovered it about 5 years ago and I re-visited again recently to see the amazing developments that hosts, Penny and Jo have now completed.
Located high in the hills above Welcome Bay, with sweeping views of forested hills and farmland, the lodge has grown from a 5-room retreat to one with 11 huge suites - the new villas now striding confidently along the brow of the small hill above the main lodge. In addition, Jo and Penny sent down a bore and came up trumps - the villas, the swimming pool and outdoor baths outside each villa are now all heated by geothermal energy. This is now even more, a place to mellow out, a place where you can indulge in wine and food, beauty and spa treatments and just generally laze about; and with 35 acres between you and the outside world, you're guaranteed privacy. Recharge, revitalise and replenish are three over-worked words in the accommodation and spa industry but here they actually mean something significant.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walking Through

When I was in Wellington a few weeks ago, I sat outside Victoria University's Pipitea Campus, near Bunny Sreet and watched people coming and going, weaving their way through the four sculptures that make up "Seismic Shock," a work by Auckland sculptor, Louise Purvis, installed in 2006.
I'm always interested in the way people react to public sculptures, how they acknowledge them - or not - as they pass by; how they react to other people taking an interest in elements of what may be their everyday environment. I wonder how many people who pass these elegant Carrara marble spheres on a regular basis, have actually stopped and touched them and thought about their relevance. And why did my sitting on one of them raise eyebrows and get second, sometimes admonishing looks? I would have thought Purvis would be delighted that someone had taken the time to run a hand across their smooth, silky surfaces - surfaces that in fact represent topographic gridlines, earthquakes and their disruptive effects on the landscape. Scattered, as though flung about in an earthquake, these 3.5 tonne spheres give us the chance to contemplate the precariousness of life on a faultline. That's a little too sobering for some perhaps.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old and New

When I see a cityscape like this I wonder why we (in New Zealand at least) want to demolish old buildings to make way for new and often inferior equivalents. I like a city that shows its 'growth rings.' I like architectural layers that accumulate over time, layers that build upon each other. It's not essential that either the old or the new be 'perfect architecture,' more important is the need to retain our history. It's like wrinkles on a body - we may not always like them but they are a reality of 'growing up' and accepting them is a sign of maturity. Wanting to get rid of them shows a very definite insecurity. I took these two shots - just two of dozens - in Symonds Street in Auckland.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 100

"Rounding Up the Cows in McKenzie Basin"
Never one to shy away from thought-provoking imagery, leading New Zealand printmaker, Barry Cleavin gives us a beauty this week - an excellent work to mark this, his 100th print appearance on this blog.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coffee in the Lane

A Moment in Time Scanning The News of the Day Melbourne Feb 2010. Ajr

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Matterhorn Moments

It was relatively quiet the day I called into Wellington's trendy Matterhorn for lunch - at least in this part of the restaurant. One of the thing I like about the place is their variety of seating - from the open restaurant to window seats and tiny, dark alcoves. the food of course is also a given. And by night, it transforms again into one of the liveliest bars in the capital.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a Sign

I love a good sign and when it's on a classic old building now housing one of the capital's best restaurants, so much the better. Once the National Bank of New Zealand, this wonderful ediface sits on the corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets - a scruffy (though trendy) area that belies the elegance and sophistication of the dining experience within.
I love the way cities morph and change in this way - a bank giving way to a restaurant, a former shady, redlight district giving way to hip boutique stores and posh restaurants and trendy cafes. It's what makes a city interesting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 99

"A Disruption to the Balance of Power"
One of New Zealand's leading printmakers starts a new week with this thought. To see others in the series click on Cleavin in the label line below this post.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Capital Comforts

The Bolton Hotel in Wellington - just across the road from the Beehive - may be five years old now but it's just as fresh and crisp and enticing as it was on the day it opened. I love its roomy apartments, sleek kitchens and wonderful views across the historic Bolton Street Cemetery (now split by the motorway) and into the Thorndon Hills. And it's just a hop, skip; and a jump from all that shopping down on Lambton Quay.

Friday, July 2, 2010

View From a Hotel Window

No matter what time of year you stay in Wellington, you can always expect wonderful weather dramas and stunning views. I took these photos on my last afternoon in Wellington. It was about 4.30pm and it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale across the Brooklyn/Te Aro Hills and The Terrace. I was intrigued by what might be going on in all these beautiful old wooden houses that cling tenaciously to their patch of sloping land. A quintessential Wellington view.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Southern Architectural Heft

The iconic Water Tower in Invercargill is but one of the hefty buildings that dominate the Invercargill urban landscape - and I use the term 'urban' lightly given that this small southern city is a little less than 'pulsing' in a true urban fashion. The domed Roman Catholic St Mary's Basilica (1905) get a facelift. This is another of the magnificent Catholic churches designed by early architect, F.W.Petre - he was also responsible for Christchurch, Waimate and Timaru eccesiastical beauties.
The magnificent old Railway Hotel (1896) now the Victoria Railway Hotel somehow "survived the Temperance Movement that kept Southland dry for decades.'
And the old but recently restored Town Hall - one and all, grand architectural statements that would stand well in any larger city. They are indicator perhaps of Southland's early and continuing wealth - a province that no matter how much we mock it, remains one of the wealthiest in the country.


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