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Meeting of Cultures contrast with Chaos and Order in SCAPE 8 New Intimacies

A 1905 photograph capturing a meeting of Māori and Pakeha leaders in Kaiapoi contrasts with a modern abstract project in the next SCAPE 8 New Intimacies projects. Both projects are on a grand scale and combine rich history and lineage with chaos and order. 

Located by the Bridge of Remembrance, Nathan Pohio’s Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course to the centre of an ever setting sun! utilises an image sourced from a 1905 edition of the Canterbury times, which depicts Māori leaders on horseback in full ceremonial dress korowai and kākahu (cloaks), flanking Lord and Lady Plunket in their motor car on a visit to Kaiapoi.

The close up around the subjects is reminiscent of heroic line-ups of characters from early popular cinema; particularly the poster for Magnificent Seven (1960) directed by John Sturges, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film Seven Samurai. This iconic film inspired generations of film makers, and although Nathan Pohio’s image predates the famous western poster by some fifty years, his re-presentation of it uses similar cinematic language. Illuminated at a grand scale and a proportion approximating Panavision for SCAPE 8 New Intimacies, the 110 year old image reads like a billboard for the latest blockbuster. It offers acknowledgement of the histories of Ōtautahi, Christchurch and the meetings of cultures alongside the Ōtākaro River. It offers the viewer a chance to imagine the narratives of these characters, and what these stories mean for a city currently reimagining itself.

“Finding the image on the Christchurch City Libraries website was a pretty overwhelming experience” says Pohio, “It left me immediately thinking everything all at once, which basically means I was speechless. But I'm accustomed to working with dualities and immediately understood the significance of the found object in a Dada kind of way, but also and perhaps more significantly for me the idea of the gift as signifier in a Kāi Tahu cultural kind of way, a gift in that I felt the presence of my ancestors looking back across time, 110 years in fact, from within this stunning image. That's a pretty powerful, unexpected and beautiful moment when initially doing a search for maps of Kaiapoi Pā. I feel lucky indeed to have such fine resources at hand, besides libraries there is the Canterbury Museum staff and collections who hold perfect copies of the newspaper from 1905 and the excellent Photographer John Collie who works at Christchurch Art Gallery, John shot and stitched together this work in the late hours”.

Contrastingly in Under Construction - Chaos and Order, Melbourne-based artist Peter Atkins has designed a new work for SCAPE 8 New Intimacies. Atkins’ art is primarily serial abstract painting, often generated by documenting readymade forms he encounters in the urban environment, such as road signage, medicine packets, record sleeves or train tickets.

'Shared Strengths', Christchurch September 2014; photos courtesy of Rob Garrett, Curator, SCAPE 8.

Under Construction – Chaos and Order was designed during Atkins’ site visit to Christchurch, where he was struck by the vast number of directional signs in the city. The work is a double-sided installation, comprised of panels based on lane-management road signs, many of which are unique to the Christchurch rebuild. These have had their directional arrows removed leaving a striking geometric pattern in the familiar reflective surface. The layout of the panels differs on each side of the work. One side is arranged randomly, engaging with the Chaos – obstacles, shards, dead ends blockages – and alluding to feelings of uncertainty, confusion and frustration experienced by residents trying to navigate the city centre. The opposite side presents Order; the panels are arranged systematically, signalling a return to routine, as well as optimism about the future. The work has been fabricated by local road signage company Fulton Hogan using exactly the same materials as the signs that populate the city.

He then removes all text and figurative elements from these forms to leave abstract colour fields which are the basis of his work.  He is particularly interested in the cultural associations of forms that have the capacity to evoke memory, nostalgia or our shared history of past experiences.

Both works are presented physically on an epic scale with Pohio’s Raise the anchor, unfurl the sails, set course to the centre of an ever setting sun! spanning 8 metres and is 5 metres tall (including supports) at the Park of Remembrance and Atkin’s Under Construction - Chaos and Order an impressive is 7.2 metres long and 6 metres high (including supports) located on Gloucester Street.

SCAPE Public Art will announce other projects and sites for SCAPE 8 New Intimacies curated by Rob Garrett throughout September. The projects by Antony Gormley, Pauline Rhodes, Hannah Kidd, Nathan Pohio, Fiona Jack, Peter Atkins and Judy Millar will be accompanied by public participation project #ThatTimeYouHelped – Our Portraits of People Reaching Out to One Another.

The SCAPE 8 Public Art Christchurch Biennial is a contemporary art event, which mixes new artworks with existing legacy pieces, an education programme, and a public programme of events. The SCAPE 8 artworks will be located around central Christchurch and linked via a Public Art Walkway, alongside a programme of artist talks, guided tours and public workshops. All aspects of SCAPE 8 are free-to-view and will be available to visit over a period of six weeks between 3 October and 15 November 2015.

Rob Garrett is a New Zealand-born curator based in Poland, with more than 35 years in the art sector, including curatorial experience in New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, France, Turkey, Germany and India. Most recently he curated the 2013 Narracje public art festival in Gdańsk, Poland.

More detailed information about the SCAPE 8 Public Art Christchurch Biennial and artists is available on the website www.scapepublicart.org.nz/scape-8


Updated on 22nd October 2015