Daegan Wells


Manapouri Vessel 1

  • 2017
  • Clay
  • On loan from the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation Award
  • 240 x 120mm
  • L01/2019

Daegan Wells sourced the clay for Manapouri Vessel 1 at the shoreline of Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park. The artist moved to the area with his family in 1996 when his stepfather worked on the Manapōuri hydropower project. He recalls falling through a seam of clay on Frasers Beach as a child, and has returned to that same location to excavate this clay – drawing on his childhood memory as well as the sociopolitical history of the lake. Manapouri translates as anxious or sorrowful heart, and the lake was named by Māori for the two sisters, Moturua and Koronae, whose tears of grief are said to have created it. In the lead up to the 1972 election, Lake Manapouri dominated headlines as concerned locals protested against the proposed raising of the lake level to enable expansion of the hydropower scheme. The campaign launched by the Save Lake Manapouri Committees demonstrated the efficacy of grassroots protest in influencing Government policy and came to symbolise a sea change in New Zealanders' personal engagement with public environmental policy. Manapouri Vessel 1 was made during Wells’s tenure as the Olivia Spencer Bower Artist in Residence Ōtautahi. Wells had recently been exposed to the work of artist Yvonne Rust, and this roughly formed work is a celebration of Rust’s advocacy for the use of local clays and robust forms.

Melanie Oliver (2021)