Oneroa: Drawing them in

By Donna McIntyre

Visitors to Waiheke are invited to experience Oneroa's new sculpture project, writes Donna McIntyre.

A child plays on Chris Bailey's 'Te Wai Puna o Rona' stone sculpture. Photo / Bob Scott
A child plays on Chris Bailey's 'Te Wai Puna o Rona' stone sculpture. Photo / Bob Scott

Tucked in the space between Waiheke's Fenice cafe and The Oyster Inn, almost hidden by surrounding foliage, is what looks like an old workshed.

But open the door and you will be Drawn In. Which is exactly what artists Jackie O'Brien and Don Stodart want to happen with this room they created for the outdoors sculpture exhibition, Sculpt Oneroa 13/14.

Drawn In's purpose is a discovery piece set up so visitors can go inside the ply sculpture and use the supplied pens and pencils to decorate the interior with their words, pictures and doodles.

Toi Te Rangiuaia (also known as Paora) and Sally Smith, both artists and gallery owners, thought up the idea last year to showcase the island's sculptures.

"This has been set up by Waiheke artists for Waiheke artists for the Waiheke community," explains Sally.

Visitors to the island can make Sculpt Oneroa part of a day trip or an overnight stay.

"We have Oneroa Beach right there. You can go to the cafes and have lunch or have a picnic on the beach. It's a great opportunity to bring the kids over and experience art."

They can also combine it with one of the kids' film matinees at the community-run cinema with its ever-so-comfy sofa seating or enjoy walking on nearby bush and coastal tracks.

"Or for the more discerning art-lovers we have Oyster Inn which won Urbis' restaurant of the year, where they can have a wonderful lunch."

The sculptures are woven through the fabric of Oneroa village and range from substantial stone pieces through to ephemeral pieces that invite the public to interact with them. Some sit on grass or footpaths, some on platforms, others hang from buildings.

The thrill for the audience is the way the artists see Oneroa in a different light, drawing visitors into parts of the village and to shops and cafes they may never have noticed before.

The 14 exhibitors include internationally acclaimed sculptors as well as up-and-coming artists.

Chris Bailey, Olivier Duhamel, Anton Forde, John Freeman, Lyndal Jefferies, Jillian Karl, Don Stodart, Paul Rhind, Oliver Stretton-Pow, Sally and Paora all showed works last year. Jackie O'Brien, John Freeman and Nigel Scanlon are new to Sculpt Oneroa.

Sally says it's wonderful to see how the artists have developed from last year. Exhibiting is open to all artists on the island who then pick a place in the village to display their work, making their art site-specific.

"The works are set within a built context, with each work carefully placed to have a dialogue with its unique setting," explains Sally. And most works have the backdrop of Oneroa Bay and Coromandel in the distance.

Chris Bailey's stone work Te Wai Puna o Rona denotes the moon's surface patterns while his Tikapa design pays homage to the traditional anchor his ancestors put down in the Hauraki Gulf.

Some sculptures are "more in your face" such as Lyndal Jeffrey's stainless steel and perspex solar-powered Lotus Lights outside Ricky's cafe; others are more about discovery.

Sally's Kina adorns the chemist wall, with its design linked to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. The village also is lucky enough to still display Sally's piece from last year's event, paying homage to environmentalist Don Chapple, on the BNZ wall.

All art work is for sale and in the same breath that Sally acknowledges the local board's grant towards running costs, she throws out a challenge.

"I would love to see the local board invest in some of this art."

The exhibition has the ability to appeal to all age groups, and the sculpture trail is access-friendly for people pushing prams or people with limited mobility.

Families with small children will especially enjoy the sculptures they can reach out and touch, such as the shed and Chris Bailey's stone works. But there are deeper messages for the more discerning in works such as Jillian Karl's Red Alert (outside TOI Gallery) addressing the state of world health and global degradation and Oliver Stretton Pow who draws on the sculptural tradition of gigantism with Capitol, to explore in exaggerated form the archetypal symbol of a beehive, as a cliché (our house of parliament) but also as a toy.

Keep an eye out for his other piece Flotsam, sitting in a stunning viewpoint close to Nigel Scanlon's Te Tara o Te Ika a Maui, the Maori name for the Coromandel, which serves as the backdrop.

Outside Tivoli bookshop the suspended Frond by Paul Rhind is especially good viewed from underneath.

Further along the street are Olivier Duhamel's endearing Mother At Play and Paora's Te Huia Kai-Manawa, inviting hands to touch the symbol of enduring love's smooth surface.

The two handsomely sculpted seats, the Throne of Allanon by John Freeman, are the perfect spot to gaze across at Anton Forde's jarrah and puriri Nga Tuakana Toko Whitu depicting the seven brothers of Maori folklore standing proud with Tane Mahuta.

"It was lovely to see two council workers, who had just finished weed-eating, sit down in the thrones and have a chat," says Sally. Now that really is what you call interacting with art.

Sculpt Oneroa is free and runs until January 19. A map with art information can be collected from iSITE or TOI Gallery in Oneroa. Most pieces are outside day and night.

Further information: See sculptoneroa.co.nz.

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