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Sculpture on the Peninsula

16 September 2021
Anna Dalzell at work (photo by Rewa Randall).
Anna Dalzell at work (photo by Rewa Randall).

From January 28–30, on the beautiful grounds of Loudon Farm in Banks Peninsula, a selection of New Zealand’s best sculptors will vie to impress the public and the judges.

Organised by the Lombardy Charitable Trust, many volunteers have been involved since Geoff Swinard kicked things off in 2000. The event has raised more than $750,000 for Cholmondeley Children’s Centre and the committee hopes thousands of attendees will support this cause in the new year.

A LABOUR OF LOVE

Work is underway to renovate an old army barracks in Phillipstown to provide a fit-for-purpose studio for Papanui High School art teacher, Rebecca Stewart.

At the end of this year, Rebecca is taking a year out from teaching students to focus on her own artistic pursuits. Having juggled the demands of full-time teaching, parenting and regular exhibitions for the past 17 years, she is looking forward to concentrating on her own art work and spending more time with her family.

In the meantime, she is working to complete an installation for Sculpture on the Peninsula. The event takes place on a working farm and participating artists are encouraged to create site-specific works. The venue includes grassed paddocks, hills and ridgelines, woodland areas, and numerous barns and outbuildings. Rebecca’s delighted that she has been assured of her first pick; the former slaughterhouse.

“I was really stoked to get that venue. My installation – flower stems set in resin arms – reminds me of arteries, so that resonates in that venue.”

For many years, Rebecca has collected vintage mannequins and uses the limbs and body forms in her art. Her event installation involves 15 individual artworks made of arm and hand moulds from female and child mannequins. Each piece will be suspended on vintage hooks and pulleys from the ceiling of the small, cylinder-shaped building.

The title Till They Have Faces is about family relationships, growth and touch. “Hands are so tactile. The pieces range in size – representing mothers, children, family bonds. These are themes that resonate with me,” Rebecca says.

Each piece requires hours of work. First, Rebecca makes a silicone mould from a mannequin. This is embedded with a floral stem created from assorted colourful artificial flowers, bamboo shoots and fern fronds then filled with resin. Once the mould is removed, Rebecca painstakingly sands back the finished product to create a crystal-clear finish.

She is reluctant to quantify the time involved in completing each work. “Oh my goodness, I try not to think about that otherwise it simply wouldn’t be worth it.”

A MAIDEN VOYAGER

Stories of the sea, shipwrecks and ocean voyages have long captivated Banks Peninsula artist Anna Dalzell.

When Anna was offered an artist’s passage to travel around the sub-Antarctic islands, she leapt at the rare opportunity to be part of the Heritage Expeditions voyage. Memories and images from that trip have inspired her work for Sculpture on the Peninsula.

Setting off from Bluff in February – along with other intrepid explorers, artists, scientists, and crew members – was the culmination of a long-time interest in the southern seas for Anna.

“I have always been fascinated by the region and the notorious stories of discovery, survival shipwrecks and disaster. There is a particular dry-plate glass negative taken by David De Maus in 1887 of the Derry Castle figurehead that fascinated me. The vessel was shipwrecked on the notorious reef surrounding the Auckland Islands with the figurehead propped up, as if a headstone for the drowned seafarers,” she explains.

The original image in the Alexander Turnbull Library shows a makeshift memorial on the coastline, created from debris that resurfaced from the wrecks. The figurehead and other relics are now in the Canterbury Museum collection.

That photo, along with her experiences, sketchings and journal records from the 18-day voyage, are the inspiration behind the work she is creating, titled The Ship Girl and Body Post – invisible women of the sea.

This is the third time Anna has participated in the South Island’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition, and she is excited by the scale offered by the unique outdoor venue.

“This event provides a good excuse to make something quite different and specifically for the site. I can be less constrained and more creative than if I was creating something for a gallery.”

Her work will take advantage of the event’s lack of size restrictions, plus the backdrop of Lyttelton Harbour. The installation features her interpretation of a carved wooden ship’s bow, topped by a bronze bust figurehead. Behind the bow, a tall mast pole supports a sail created from linen, muslin and silk to resemble a deconstructed dress.

The sculpture is also a tribute to Elizabeth Farr, an Irish convict’s daughter who left the penal colony on Norfolk Island at the age of 13, to be the captain’s ‘ship girl’ on a passing vessel, Perseverance. The captain, two crew members and Elizabeth perished when their rowboat capsized as they attempted to land at Campbell Island. Her body was buried in what Anna calls, “a lonely grave at the bottom of the world”.

Anna is keen to see the tale’s false history, romanticised in early novels, made real. The sail represents the dress that Elizabeth might have worn, complete with whalebone corsetry sewn into the ethereal, ghost-like dress design.

Anna’s work-in-progress is coming together “bit by bit” in time for January. “The figure in wax is ready to cast, the milled redwood for the bow is lying on my drive, and I have had a lesson in how to use a chainsaw.”

anna 1

Bookings for the event's Grand Opening are available from
November 21 ($90). Saturday and Sunday tickets will be sold on the gate 9.30am – 5.00pm ($20 adult, U15 free).
sculpturenz.co.nz

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