Ronnie van Hout is the artist responsible for the mysterious figure pointing skywards that has appeared on the roof of a central city building.
The sculpture on top of the building at 209 Tuam Street is one of 20 exhibitions and presentations that have been popping up around the central city as part of the Gallery's Populate! programme – being held to celebrate its tenth birthday this month.
Van Hout, who lives in Melbourne and has exhibited with the Gallery previously, has visited Christchurch several times in the past two years and thinks the public art landscape post-earthquake is dynamic and interesting.
'There seem to be many official and unofficial responses to the unfolding events. Some of these responses are made consciously as art and many, like the multitude of hand-made signs, are in the arena of art making.
'Christchurch is now an odd place where much of what you see is in some way a memorial.'
His Populate! work, called Comin' Down, is a three-dimensional replica of himself. It points up to the sky with a very long arm and looks down to the street, as if imploring others to see what he is seeing.
'With the title Comin' Down I wanted to capture multiple meanings. The falling down of buildings or sculptures; the idea that something in the sky is possibly coming down; and the idea that an experience is passing, and we are coming down to ground from a high point,' van Hout says.
'The sculpture is a monument to a gesture. Pointing at something is a basic form of art making. We invite someone else to see what we are seeing and we create a relationship between people and the thing that is pointed at.'
Director Jenny Harper hopes van Hout's sculpture gets people talking.
'Figurative sculptures usually stand on plinths in urban parks and squares. But van Hout's figure is an ambiguous monument for a city where many more conventional sculptures have fallen.'
She is pleased with the range of works included in Populate!
'There is a real sense of vibrancy and energy coming back to the central city through these different faces and figures. They bring bursts of humour and strangeness to the depopulated inner city.'
A series of fun Populate! community events are being held over the weekend of Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May, with the majority based outside the Gallery's newest exhibition space at 209 Tuam Street (above C1 Espresso) – and also the location of van Hout's sculpture.