Sculpture in the Gardens is held in the Auckland Botanic Gardens over the summer every two years and is something that my mother and I always look forward to visiting. This year we appreciated it more than ever as an outing that is suitable to enjoy in the crazy COVID world we are living in at the moment: it is outdoors and it is easy to stay 2m away from other people. The cafe (and an outdoor kiosk) is open so you can stop for suitable refreshments as part of the outing.
As always, I love the combination of art and nature but when I went to vote for my favourite sculpture I started to think about what it was that I really enjoyed in an exhibition. Art is a very personal thing and everyone has their own experience and things that capture their eye and interest. There are many different things you can appreciate about a piece of art:
- the exhibit represents some aspect of our society that we need to find ways to talk about such as anxiety and mental health
- the artist supports or is a spokesperson in our community for issues such as poverty and suicide prevention
- the piece of art is made from recycled materials or clever components
- the artwork is quirky or humorous or just plain fun
- the piece is beautiful to look at (form and/or colour)
- it is a stunning capture of a moment in time
- the artist has represented nature perfectly using their chosen medium
- the composition is perfect in its surroundings
- and many more besides, I’m sure.
For me (and for this particular exhibition) things that are nature-inspired are what immediately take my fancy and particularly those that are appropriate for their surroundings in a botanical garden. They must be beautiful to look at and ideally be a good representation of their natural form. The sculpture that got my vote this time is called Serenity – a depiction of the rare Kotuku or white heron that has long been sacred to Maori. It has a beautiful form and was perfectly placed in its natural environment in the lake shallows (although I did actually prefer the larger and more colourful version that was in the indoor gallery).
Bug Lane was another series of sculptures that I really liked. They were sculpted in bronze and extremely detailed and life-like (although much larger than life). I like bugs and these just made me want to get up close and examine them – and stroke the smooth bronze.
Other favourites include a sculpture of the hanging fern mangemange depicted in bronze, brass and copper, and another of a tree fern in steel (you did have to find the right angle to appreciate this one).
There weren’t really any quirky or humorous ones this time however one called Through the Looking Glass did feature a dog with its snout poking through a table. And although I didn’t like the sculpture itself, a piece called Crumbs (a bird feeder) did seem appropriate as it references the history of botanic gardens from plant collections from around the world to pleasure gardens to education and conservation. The figurines in the sculpture demonstrate an idyllic view of the past.
Not to be outdone by the sculpture, the gardens themselves put on a pretty good show as well.
As well as the outdoor sculptures, there are many smaller ones on display in the gallery in the Visitor Centre and all around the walls. I was delighted to see lots of sculptures from Jane Downes one of my favourite artists from last time. I had been so impressed with her sculpture that I bought a small version for my own garden.