Award-winning artist wants ornate monument for New Brighton
The winner of a prestigious New Zealand art award wants to create a mountain of yellow flowers as an “iconic monument of New Brighton”.
New Brighton artist Melissa Macleod, who received the Olivia Spencer Bower Prize of $ 30,000 this year, wants to create the public artwork to serve as a calling card for east Christchurch.
She imagines a four-story pile of dirt on an empty site or red-zoned lot near New Brighton, entirely planted with yellow gazania flowers resembling daisies.
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“It would be a large mass of bright yellow color,” she said.
“It’s about Brighton and providing a really happy thing.”
She thinks it could take years, and a lot of funding, to make the monumental sculpture a reality.
But she said she would use the freedom of the prize money to research the distinctive coastal daisies. She collects the seeds of the flowers and cultivates them in her greenhouse.
“It won’t happen in months or even years.
“My challenge will be to find a dreamer with the money, or maybe wait to win the lottery.”
She hopes the sculpture, which would be called Color Field, could become a beacon for New Brighton and help regenerate the area, much like the Angel of the North sculpture in the north of England.
“I want to create an iconic monument for New Brighton. Art can do it.
“Art can create a positive experience that draws people to a place that they can relate to.”
But she wanted to create the artwork in partnership with the local community.
“It can’t just be a white alien appearing and confronting people. It will be a slow process involving the local population.
She said the Olivia Spencer Bower Award allowed her to reduce her teaching work and spend more time developing her artistic practice.
“Olivia Spencer Bower felt that artists often need to shut the door and dream and do no work.
“I don’t need to have a finished job at the end, but in the long run I thought I would like to do [Colour Field] happen.”
Macleod talks to the Christchurch Art Gallery on Wednesday about two new works she created for the gallery Te Wheke: Paths through Oceania exposure.
Both works address the issue of climate change and coastal erosion. One, called The Fall (# 2), uses sand samples from 24 locations across New Zealand that are experiencing coastal erosion.
The samples are laced onto nylon fishing line and hung from the ceiling to create a waterfall of sand. The color of the sand ranges from black and blue to grays and yellows.
“It’s a whole world of colors there.”
The second work includes a series of large circular sieves. The screens inside the screens are made from the roots of New Brighton trees that were felled after the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011.
The trees bordering the estuary died when the land subsided in the earthquakes.
Macleod spent hours picking up tree roots, cleaning them, waxing them, and threading them through large sieves.
“Tree stumps with exposed roots work like a sieve.
“The dirt goes between them and into the ocean.”
The title of the work, the slow amputation of his protective arm, refers to coastal erosion slowly degrading the Southshore Spit in eastern Christchurch.
“I saw the spindle as the arm and it is slowly amputated.”
The work was purchased by the Christchurch Art Gallery for its permanent collection.
Macleod worked in his hangar during the Covid-19 lockdown to create the two works of art. The sand attracts moisture, so she had to dry it in a frying pan before starting to work.
Her planned flower monument in New Brighton would also draw inspiration from her local surroundings, she said. The flowering plant often grows in the sand dunes of the beach.
The flowers opened in daylight, creating a yellow lighthouse, then closed at night, giving the hill a green color.
“It closed at night.
“It would have a mind of its own to a certain extent.”
Christchurch Art Gallery
A look at the creation of the million dollar Christchurch sculpture by artist Ron Mueck. (Video first published in April 2019)