Sculpture in our Garden

Monday 12 November 2007, 3:57PM

By Auckland Regional Council



Gardening is art. This is the philosophy that Auckland Botanic Gardens curator manager Jack Hobbs works by and is reflected in the Gardens’ exhibit at this year’s Ellerslie International Flower Show.

Sculpture in our Garden has been created by the Garden’s own team of Brooke Stark, Glen Carter and Keith Hyde. The exhibit is based around three sculptures by Auckland artist Richard Cooper and demonstrates how New Zealand gardens can be complemented by the placement of quality artworks.

The idea to create a sculpture garden grew out of the Auckland Botanic Gardens’ plan to host a major exhibition of outdoor sculpture by top New Zealand artists. Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens opened to the public less than two weeks before the Ellerslie International Flower Show and the Gardens’ team is using their Show exhibit to promote the other major event being held on the property.

“Each year we enter an exhibition garden into the Show and we’ve amassed a fine collection of awards over the years,” says Jack Hobbs.

“We have a very talented team of collection curators and gardeners who have a flair for garden design and a good eye for quality artwork. This year we have taken advantage of the timing of the show to promote Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens.

“It seems fitting that we do this, not just as a marketing opportunity, but as a show of pride for an event that we are immensely excited about and would like to share with as many people as possible,” he says.

The sculptures in Sculpture in our Garden have been made especially for the exhibit. Called Awhi rito, they symbolise the link between plants earth and people. Each piece is comprised of a positive and negative image, representing the positive and negative energy which is needed to create balance and harmony.

Awhi rito is a term used during flax harvesting. The rito, or young shoot in the middle, and awhi rito, the two leaves on either side, must not be cut as this weakens the plant. This way the whakapapa of the plant is protected because the baby and its parents are retained to produce further generations of growth.

The sculptures are set amid lush subtropical plants, including palms grown and supplied by PalmCo.

“We have chosen plants that compliment the sculptures in both texture and colour. The sculptures are a bold statement in this space and needed to be placed with strong plants,” says senior gardener Glen Carter.

“We hope Sculpture in our Garden will inspire people to place sculpture in their own garden at home, as well as journeying further into the Auckland Botanic Gardens and visiting Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens,” he says.

Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens runs at the Auckland Botanic Gardens until 31 January 2008. This exhibition of large-scale outdoor sculptures features the work of 27 of New Zealand’s best known and most talented artists including Greer Twiss, Virginia King, Paul Dibble, Terry Stringer, Jim Wheeler, Peter Lange and Fred Graham.

“Art on this scale can only be promoted by public agencies. With this significant arts event, the Council is embracing the potential of public art to enhance people’s enjoyment of its parks, to excite their imaginations and express the diverse creative talents of the people of the Auckland region,” says ARC Parks and Heritage Chair Cr Sandra Coney.

“The Gardens are magically changed by the works, all of which have been carefully considered for their individual settings. Visitors will see the gardens through new eyes and at the same time gain an appreciation of the role art plays in our everyday lives,” she says.

In an interesting twist to this garden creation, Brooke, Glen and Keith have immersed themselves in a story with an ‘Aotearoa’ flavour yet they all hail from abroad.


Dr Richard Cooper

Richard Cooper is a New Zealand born Cook Islander who holds a Doctorate of Fine Arts. The father of four describes his artistic concepts as being primarily based around the importance of the family and social values in society. Richard has worked in a multitude of mediums including the material he’s been familiar with from an early age – wood.

Richard worked for many years as a forestry worker in Tokoroa where he got the technical skills and the inspiration to use the chainsaw for artistic purposes. This is evident in the multi-dimensional sculptural pieces that are still his trademark today.

Richard has exhibited both nationally and internationally, has a number of scholarships and awards behind him and has completed many commissioned public works of art.

Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens

Twenty seven large scale sculptures. Three months. One magnificent garden setting. Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens runs from 4 November 2007 to 31 January 2008 and features the work of some of New Zealand’s best known and most talented artists.

At the opening celebrations on 3 November the McConnell Property Supreme Award was presented to Barry Lett for his work ‘Big Rock Dog’. The $25,000 award was a first for Lett who claims he’s never won anything before and is delighted to have received top honours at the inaugural show.

Stoneleigh Sculpture in the Gardens features the work of: Tanya Ashken, Chiara Corbelletto, Bing Dawe, Paul Dibble, Charlotte Fisher, Fiona Garlick, Fred Graham, David Guerin, Christine Hellyar, John Ioane, Virginia King, Peter Lange, Barry Lett, Samantha Lissette, David McCracken, Neil Miller, Phil Neary, Matt Pine, Terry Stringer, Llew Summers, Marte Szirmay, Jeff Thomson, Filipe Tohi, Greer Twiss, Warren Viscoe, Jim Wheeler, Steve Woodward