Art in the outdoors: a vigorous antidote to melancholy

Bernar Venet, '88.5 ARC x 8. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Bernar Venet, 88.5° ARC x 8. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.
It wearies me; you say it wearies you.
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn.
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
— William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

 

Like Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, I’ve lately been troubled by a inexplicable melancholy. Lethargic to the point of inertia, I was really grateful to the Big T for organising a trip to Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park last week. It got me off my butt and out into the fresh (really fresh) air.

The park is the private domain of entreprenuer Alan Gibbs, and is home to an impressive collection of minimalist abstract sculptures — most on a monumental scale.

Once a month, Gibbs Farm is opened to the public. Tickets are usually snapped up very quickly, so the Big T did wonderfully well in getting us a couple.

In the distance, Bernar's Venet's Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

In the distance, Venet’s 88.5° ARC x 8. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

As you would expect with a collection that specialises in large-scale work, the park is enormous — around 1000 acres in total. Access is by foot only, although golf carts can be brought in by arrangement for those who could not walk the terrain.  It takes around 3-4 hours to visit all the sculptures in good weather. But last Thursday could not be described as having “good weather.” Frequent showers meant a constant juggling act with umbrellas, and soggy ground underfoot made the steeper parts of the walk quite challenging.

But on the plus side, the lowering skies added an incredible atmosphere and provided a great backdrop for photographs.

Richard Serra, Te Tuhirangi Contour. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Richard Serra, Te Tuhirangi Contour. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

The scale of the works can be quite challenging for photography. Te Tuhirangi Contour is a wall, 252 metres long and six metres high which follows the natural contour of the land. At this size, I found it really difficult to capture its undulating shape and scale.

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment, Site 1, is an 85 metre tube of “PVC membrane stretched between two giant steel elipses.” (1) It rests in a valley, so it’s impossible to see the whole work. In some ways, that just adds to the sense of awe I think the work inspires.

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

A visitor favourite. Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Richard Thompson, Untitled (Red Square/Black Square). Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Richard Thompson, Untitled (Red Square/Black Square). Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Andy Goldsworthy, Arches. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Andy Goldsworthy, Arches. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara Harbour, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

By the end of our visit we were wet, muddy, exhausted and longing for a cuppa. A good day then.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

 

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(1) Description of the work in visitors’ guide.

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42 thoughts on “Art in the outdoors: a vigorous antidote to melancholy

  1. Su, the perfect combination to lift the soul: family, contemporary art, nature, and the serenity of the sculptural park. Those abstract sculptures have a way of taking us to a deeply spiritual place that touches our senses and sensibilities. You’ve captured their spirit. Happy Photo Challenge.

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    • It was lovely, even in the torrential rain! I’m not sure about the Gormley; I love the idea of it. I will HAVE to come and see it in person sometime. I had hoped to visit Scape, but I’m going to the Bondi exhibition at the end of the month, and the budget doesn’t really stretch to multiple art holidays (I fancied Art in a Garden in Flaxmere too). I listened to Rob Garrett’s interview with Eva Radich on Upbeat (http://www.radionz.co.nz/concert/programmes/upbeat/audio/201772391/rob-garrett-scape-public-art) the other day. Rob has curated the last few Sculpture OnShore exhibitions too, and he speaks really well. It’s always interesting to hear an artists’ advocate talking about work. I visited The Angel of the North with my mum a couple of years ago and loved how it was such a towering presence next to an area of estate housing. Interestingly, along the fenceline, people had set up little shrines to loved ones who had died. I liked that they were placing them in the angel’s care.

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      • Your photos of Gibbs Farm are very beautiful – they show how the landscape holds these enormous sculptures with ease and complements them. Enjoyed your writing too.
        The Gormley statue in the river at Scape 8 is very moving, but will be there for a long time, so another time – in fact most of them will be. I was lucky to be there for the opening and hear Rob, Judy Millar and Nathan Pohio speaking and found the whole experience – not having been to Christchurch since before the earthquakes – shifted my thoughts about what is happening there – it’s a mix of a war zone and clean slate, terribly hard to live in but some vibrant signs of life emerging.

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      • Thanks Juliette. I’m really keen to visit Christchurch again; I don’t know the city well anyway, and wonder what it must be like now. Not sure I’ll make it before Scape ends, but if at least some of the work will remain after that, then I will get to see those pieces. Hope all is well with you. Cheers, Su.

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  3. Oh I am so envious. But a special thank you for the Anish Kapoor. I saw this being created in BBC documentary earlier in the year. What a fantastic place. Good on the Big T. Tell him thank you from me 😀

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    • Thanks Tish; I’ll tell him. You don’t happen to remember the name of the documentary do you? I’d love to see it.

      A curator who walked around with us was talking about how Dismemberment is based on another work that Kapoor made for the Tate Gallery, and that it’s origins are in Greek mythology and the story of someone who was flayed. It is probably the most emotionally engaging work at the park — even without knowledge of its origins.

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  4. I echo MOSY’s comment. This is epic!

    The weather with its dark, moody skies provides a great backdrop for your photos. If and when I get to NZ someday, this is going to be on my must-see list.
    I was smitten by the very first photo of the ARC, then you introduced the Dismemberment Site (HOLY WOW!) and then just casually tossed in the Arches! So impressive!

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  5. Big T couldn’t have found a better antidote for melancholy dear Su.Spectacular sculptures impressively displayed in the enormous park.Striking symbolic shapes,vibrant or muted colours expressing the strong relationship between the Art and the Soul.”I have much ado to know myself. …” Hope you feel better now 🙂

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    • Thank you Doda. I am feeling more invigorated today. I’ve put indoor things (er, work) aside a little in the last few days and spent time in my garden. Even pulling weeds has been good for my soul. I do think my day out with art has been the best tonic. I hope all is well with you my friend. 🙂

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      • I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling much better and renewed dear Su.Art supports the bigger picture view of life.That’s also nice you turned to gardening as a way of calming your mind and decompressing a little bit.Cooking is good “therapy” too.Keep pulling weeds and paint your days with the sweet colours of your garden 🙂 xxx

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  6. Su, this looks like the perfect way to get exercise and uplift your spirits as well. Having people in many of the shots really shows the scale of the sculptures. I think the first two photos and sculptures are my favorites, but I’d love to see them all. Just imagine having the property and wherewithal to have this done!!

    janet

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    • Thanks Janet. I love that artists can make real their visions on a huge scale. Most of the work there is the largest the particular artists have ever made. The costs are incredibly high, so to have such a wealthy patron who can give free rein to creativity is wonderful. Cheers, Su.

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    • You’re welcome. I love outdoor sculpture too. Gibbs Farm is so huge it feels like a giant’s playground. It would be the most amazing place to camp out, but I guess Mr Gibbs might not be too keen on that. Hehe.

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  7. Wow! Super awesome. I imagine that if you walked around going in the opposite direction approaching the sculptures from a different angle would make them look new all over again. I reckon on the scale of awesomeness it’s 10 / 10. Gobsmacked!

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