Sculpture in the Gardens 1997-1998

26 November 1997 – 5 April 1998

The third Sculpture in the Gardens show. Participating artists are Randall Watson, Evan Webb, Sam Mahon, and the late Len Lye.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is again the setting for contemporary sculpture by leading New Zealand artists in the third Sculpture in the Gardens show. Held every second summer, this major outdoor event is a collaboration between the Botanic Gardens and the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, and was initiated to illustrate the rich diversity of contemporary sculptural practice in this country.

In delicious contrast to the earthly stability of 1995's stone theme, the inspirations for this year's event are wind and water, and involve kinetic, or moving, elements. Participating artists are Randall Watson, Evan Webb and Sam Mahon, and (technical logistics permitting) a work by an internationally renowned artist, the late Len Lye.

Randall Watson, who has established a wide reputation for dynamic and witty interactive sculpture, makes his presence felt with Target, a revolving red metal cross, fittingly positioned on the Archery Lawn. A graduate from the Christchurch Polytechnic's Art and Design School, Watson has described his method in 'working with invisibles' like wind and gravity as 'a dance.'

Regret, a spidery tower by local sculptor and painter Sam Mahon, is intended to reflect the 'messy reality' of human life. Over ten metres high and made from steel rod of various thicknesses, the sculpture will rise up out of the small pond on the Archery Lawn. As well as a wind-turned bird on the top of the structure and revolving masks halfway down, there will also be a partially submerged figure reclining in the water. Materials for Mahon's project were generously supplied by Fenwick Reinforcing Ltd.

Evan Webb's work consists of two separate metal elements, each three metres high which, activated by the wind, begin 'calling to each other.' Installed on the Pine Mound site, this sculpture links nature and the machine, referring to the practice of naming cars (such as the ubiquitous Falcon) after birds. In addition to his own sculptural practice, Webb is also the executive officer for the Len Len Foundation and has been instrumental in the completion of numerous Lye sculpture projects. No celebration of the best in New Zealand kinetic sculpture would be complete without a work by Christchurch born film-maker, sculptor, painter, genetic theorist and experimental prose writer Len Lye (1901–1980). A very special feature of the 1997 Sculpture in the Gardens will be the inclusion of a huge steel work, Large Blade, which was built by the Len Lye Foundation this year after Lye's design. This work had only ever existed before in sketches and models and it is solely due to the generosity of the New Zealand collector who recently commissioned its construction that its first ever public appearance will be held here in Christchurch.

Due to the technical difficulties involved in realising such a project, Large Blade may be installed a few weeks after the official opening of Sculpture in the Gardens. Part of Lye's Bounding Steel series, Large Blade consists of a large rotating titanium shaft which is repeatedly hit by a ball, creating an erratic and beautiful display of sound and shimmering vibration. It will perform once a day at 12.30pm, operate for approximately 10 minutes and at its maximum velocity Large Blade will create the visual pattern of a double helix. Lye described the planned effect as 'a violent, vibrant, rotating affair,' intended to reflect the light 'like an Aztec monument to the sun.'

This exhibition was held in the Botanic Gardens.