High art

PUBLIC ART: Joanna Langford's The High Country on display on the corner of Montreal St and Kilmore St.
PUBLIC ART: Joanna Langford's The High Country on display on the corner of Montreal St and Kilmore St.

When New Zealand artist Joanna Langford's new artwork The High Country was revealed this week, it was the culmination of a long personal and artistic saga.

Located on a vacant site on the corner of Montreal and Kilmore streets, Langford has created an utopian aerial city floating high above its urban surroundings. Installed from a 10-metre high crane tower on a busy commuter route, her fanciful work utilises existing found and recycled materials to create an image of lush pastures surrounding an illuminated model city.

The High Country was originally commissioned for the 6th SCAPE Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space in October 2010. Postponed after the September 2010 earthquake, it was then re- scheduled for installation in early 2011. The February earthquake placed the planned inner-city location for the artwork out-of- bounds. The artwork has since been sitting, waiting, in an engineering workroom.

But in early 2012, Langford injured her wrists, again delaying the installation of the work. But this week, the final touches were put to a piece which carries messages about urbanism and recycling - and achievement and victory over adversity.

Representative of the artist's recent body of work incorporating found and often overlooked items, The High Country utilises some of the 320,000 kilometres of plastic silage wrap disposed of every year, alongside more than 300 recycled plastic milk bottles lit with LED lights. Langford's ethereal works seem to defy gravity to float. Christchurch Art Gallery installed Up from the plainlands at the top of the gallery staircase in 2009.

"In The High Country I wanted to produce a whimsical city environment. In late 2010 it was envisioned as a comment on urbanism, waste, and regeneration. Now, with Christchurch having changed so much with the earthquakes, I think that it says even more than it could have in the past; with lines of traffic flowing past it, facing onto the peaceful tree-lined expanse of Cranmer Square and in stark contrast to the surrounding gap sites, vacant lots and demolition," Langford says.

The work will be on show until January 2013. It is free-to-view and SCAPE encourages to see it after dark when it will be illuminated.

SCAPE Public Art will also be installing two further artworks before the end of 2012. Rachael Dewhirst's Resene Art in the Streets Scape Christchurch Murals project will be installed in Re:Start in November, and Mexican artist Hector Zamora's Muegano will be sited in the lake next to the Botanic Gardens Information Centre in December.

The Press