Peninsula's sculpture set to inspire
There are times when art becomes creative gardening - a small seed of inspiration is planted giving you the pleasure of watching it sprouting, growing and maturing.
Nearly a decade ago Geoff Swinard had the notion of holding an annual survey exhibition of sculpture in the garden of his Governors Bay property, Lombardy. Nestled in the bucolic Ohinetahi valley, it was the perfect environment to display - and appreciate - an eclectic mix of works by New Zealand artists.
The first exhibition was comparatively small but here was an idea which grew and flourished under the guidance of the Lombardy Charitable Trust. It clearly appealed to collectors and those who don't usually respond to the label "art exhibition".
It might have had a broad appeal but from the start the quality of the art was consistently high. There was never any attempt to dumb down. From the very beginning, the standard and range of works was a constant source of surprise and delight.
Sadly Geoff Swinard never lived to see his concept mature but his vision remains his living memorial. Like all good growing things, it spread its roots to become today's Sculpture on the Peninsula.
Under the continuing wing of the Lombardy Trust, led by the indefatigable Gill Hay, the project eventually moved along the road to Teddington where it found a new space in the grounds of the historic Banks Peninsula property at Loudon. Presided over by an elegant Victorian house and the towering cloud-swept peninsula hills, the annual event is today the South Island's largest sculpture exhibition, attracting artists from throughout the country.
The 2013 Sculpture on the Exhibition (November 8, 9 and 10) will be the eighth exhibition. The genius loci behind the establishment of that first exhibition never deserted the organisers and the contributing artists. Creative, inventive and, yes, inspirational Sculpture on the Peninsula has emerged as a firm fixture in Canterbury's arts calendar.
Naturally a $10,000 award for the best work helps fire the collective imagination but somehow the relaxed informality and setting of the event produces works which raise the sculptural bar. New ideas insist on bubbling to the surface.
During the past few years, a series of homely objects ranging from saws to spades have been transformed into artworks. In an outbreak of outrageous enthusiasm I once found myself bidding for a wooden rowing oar deftly reinvented by the master himself, Bill Hammond. It wasn't desire - this was pure lust.
My hand rose and fell merrily until my eyes met my wife's stern gaze and I read the marital flag signals. This delectable objet d'art would never be mine. Instead I slunk away to seek oblivion in large succulent slices of spit roasted meat. My only, but admittedly weak excuse was that the evening's auctioneer, the ever persuasive Joe Bennett, made me do it.
This year, an ensemble of chairs has been assembled for artists including Dean Venrooy, Mark Whyte, Cheryl Lucas and Bill Hammond. It'll be difficult to sit on your hands for these offerings.
The catalogue of other works features some well-known names - including Paul Dibble, Llew Summers, Alison Erickson, Phil Price, Graham Bennett and Hannah Kidd. I must also add that the Chris Moore on the list is not this reporter but another, infinitely more creative Moore.
I've no doubt that the 2013 Sculpture on the Peninsula will be as memorable as its predecessors.
Geoff Swinard would be proud, especially as the proceeds will go to another peninsula landmark, The Cholmondeley Children's Centre - and you can't do better than that.
Sculpture on the Peninsula. Grand opening, Friday, November 8, 5-8.30pm, tickets $65 available from sculpturenz.co.nz or Ballantynes.
Public days, Saturday and Sunday, November 9 and 10, 9am to 5pm.
This is a regular weekly column by Press arts commentator Chris Moore.