Denis O’Connor

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1947

The Gorse King

  • Commissioned, 1990
  • Maheno limestone painted with yellow ochre lime wash
  • 990 x 170 x 155mm
  • 91/46:1-33
  • 1990-1991

Keeping Time, 23 May – 31 August 2008

Like many of Denis O’Connor’s works, The Gorse King entwines personal, family and collective histories, exploring how identity and memory are pieced together through people, places and things. Each element of this sculpture is presented as a kind of talismanic relic, an object that can be interpreted symbolically as a point of connection with the past or a fragment from a childhood dream.

Rich associations are present within the limestone itself, from the geology of the ancient fossils it contains, to the experiences of the stonemasons who first shaped it into blocks, and to its new life as an art object. The ochre lime-wash recalls the evolving patina of aging stone used by O’Connor’s Scottish and Irish ancestors, but also the brilliant gold of blooming gorse that illuminates the Central Otago landscape where this stone was quarried.

With references to pre-decimal coinage and classical architecture, O’Connor also draws attention to the concept of ‘currency’ and the idealism with which we often regard historical events.

earlier labels about this work
  • This work is a sculpture commission consisting of thirty three pieces of maheno limestone including a piece of rock for levelling the bottom of the pot. The stone is from the Caversham Gas Works demolition.