Experiencing art in New Zealand – Part 1 Gibbs Farm

I recently spent 10 days zig-zagging across New Zealand in a motorhome (highly recommended), a lovely mini-holiday and my first proper, thesis-less, conference-less break since 2008. While I was there I had a chance to see and experience many inspiring things, and I wanted to note down the most relevant here in this blog.

Below – a map (of course) of the main places visited – zig-zag north to south

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We spent the first day at Gibbs Farm, a privately owned working farm north of Auckland that is home to a remarkable collection of large scale site-specific sculptures. There is no charge to visit the farm, but it is only open by appointment one day a month. Once you arrive, you are free to wander around and spend as long as you like with each work. My partner and I had a wonderful day climbing up and down grassy hills as the weather changed from rainy to stormy to perfect.

My interest in site-specific art is professional, academic, and personal, and therefore much of my travel is dictated by opportunities to visit site-specific works and programs. The size and exuberance of Gibbs Farm has made it one of my favourites to date.

I’m posting some images here but the sculptures need to be enjoyed in person, as much depends on their scale, materiality and context. I’ll only look at three works in a bit of details, but here is a small sample of others:

below,  Neil Dawson Horizons 1994. Welded and painted steel   15 x 10 x 36m

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Below, foreground Daniel Buren Green and White Fence 1999 / 2001 Fence posts at 4m intervals, painted green and white 87mm stripes 3.2km long. Background Bernar Venet 88.5° ARC x 8 2012. Corten steel, 8 arcs each 27m x 0.75m x 0.75m. (detail second photo)

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Below Len Lye Wind Wand 2003. Red fibreglass tube 45m x 200mm

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One of my favourites was the first work we saw, Richard Serra’s Te Tuhirangi Contour – a 252 metre long (yes!), 6 metre tall, slightly angled (110) coreten plates tracing a single contour on the landscape. There are so many things I love about it – the connection to cartography, the scale, the surprising warmth of the coreten, the way the work changes from different viewpoints. Even though Serra’s work might appear masculine and uncommunicative at first glance, in reality it is completely predicated on the viewer. There aren’t many examples of Serra’s work in my part of the world, but whenever I’ve experienced them I’ve found them quite powerful and emotionally affecting, especially the Torque series, and now, Te Tuhirangi Contour. The size has something to do with it, but also the continuous marking near the ground all along the work that indicates that on quiet days without visitors the sculpture is a warm favourite for the farm’s sheep.

Below, Richard Serra Te Tuhirangi Contour 1999/2001. 56 Corten steel plates. 252m x 6m x 50mm

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Another work that I really like is Andy Goldsworthy’s Arches, eleven freestanding round arches made of sandstone blocks, straddling the tidal space between land and sea. The description of the work makes references to migration and genealogy, but I didn’t really pick up on those. I appreciated the architectural aspects of the forms, but I was primarily drawn to the spacing of the arches, the rhythm and breaks and slight changes in direction. I didn’t think about this at the time but I’ve been doing lots of running stitch since my visit, and the arches are a bit like running stitch that hasn’t been pulled through all the way yet. I think this is what works – not the analogy with stitching, that is just my current head space – the tension between what is seen in the sculpture and what is unseen, the space between the arches and the hint of a mirror set of arches beneath the ground…

Below, Andy Goldsworthy Arches 2005. Pink Leadhill sandstone blocks stacked into 11 freestanding arches. Each arch is 7m long with each block 1.4m²

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The final work I’d like to discuss is the amazing Dismemberment, Site 1 by Anish Kapoor. I have mixed feelings about Anish Kappor’s work, sometimes it annoys me. But no mixed feelings here, Dismemberment, Site 1 is remarkable and just made me smile. The work is a mild steel tubing frame 85 metres long, bookmarked by oval forms, 25 metres tall and 8 wide at one end, and 8 metres tall and 25 metres wide at the other. A bright red PVC membrane is stretched across the frame, and the wok is nestled into a hollow in a hill in such a way that it is almost impossible to view the entire thing at once. Like much of Kapoor’s work it is a simple form made complex by scale, colour, material, placement and context. It looks slightly different from every vantage point, I took maybe 100 photos of it and it sometimes recalls a trumpet, or a mouth, or a funnel, or a circle to view the sky. It simply made me happy to be near it. I also enjoyed the thought that this massive and delightful work is technically a textile piece…

Below, Anish Kapoor Dismemberment, Site 1 2009. Mild steel tube and tensioned fabric. West end 25 x 8m, East end 8 x 25m. Length 85m

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One thought on “Experiencing art in New Zealand – Part 1 Gibbs Farm

  1. I have never been to this wonderfull place but a good reason to go back to new Zealand
    only the photo’s made my day on a ordinary thursday

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