Beehaven, Jane Downes. Exhibited at Sculpture in the Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Art is optimism made manifest. To write a poem, paint a picture, compose music or shape materials into a physical expression of an idea; for me these things entail a hopefulness about the future.
Sculpture seems to me a particularly optimistic art form. It is often large in scale and can require a lot of expensive materials. The artists need great skill, a lot of time and plenty of money to make work. Sometimes they receive a commission, but more often make work because they have to; because the creative impulse is too strong to ignore.
The three works shown in this post are all being exhibited at the moment at the Auckland Botanic Gardens as part of the biennial Sculpture in the Gardens. The exhibition, which champions New Zealand artists, runs for a three-month period and is free for visitors. The works exhibited are for sale, and some are bought by the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens to become part of the permanent collection.
Neither Chris Moore’s ‘Bird Songs‘ nor Bing Dawe’s ‘Titipounamu‘ is a particularly optimistic work thematically. Both lament the loss of bird species in New Zealand and elsewhere. But both are very large-scale works in steel which have taken enormous effort as well as vision to create. They draw our attention to the problem, but do so through beauty and creative talent.
Glass artist Gary Nash’s ‘Waypoint‘ of blown glass shapes is a truly optimistic work, with its clever stacking of delicate glass in what appears to be a somewhat precarious cairn.
Like the art on display, exhibitions such as Sculpture in the Gardens require optimism, and a belief in the power of art to improve the lives of people who experience it.