Auckland: Shapely stroll

By Liz Light

Liz Light follows Auckland's Domain sculpture walk.

Chiara Corbelletto's Numbers. Photo / Liz Light
Chiara Corbelletto's Numbers. Photo / Liz Light

We stroke it, run our fingers along thick coils of stone rope and wonder what precious things are tied up in this great marble mint. It's perched on a ball, the Earth perhaps, or it may be a symbolic boat bobbing across the ocean.

Louise Purvis, the sculptor who created this lovely thing, calls it Promise Boat. A promise that, one day, the rope will be unwound and this treasure will be revealed.

Our three adults and two children have two hours to enjoy on a sunny Sunday in central Auckland. We leave the car at the bottom of the hill on the city side of the Domain and Promise Boat is the first of seven sculptures by New Zealand artists on the Auckland Domain sculpture walk.

About 200m up the path, Chiara Corbelletto's Numbers are the language of nature. It has a repeated modular pattern, something like a three-pointed joker's hat, with interlocking cells running together. And running is what the girls do, running around it and climbing on it.

The girls run ahead and, when we catch up, they're circling the stone base of the Arc.

This 3m piece by Charlotte Fisher looks like a giant menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that has been a symbol of Judaism for 3000 years.

If it is an arc then the seven symbolic people in it are terribly tall. Whatever it represents, we likeit.

Near the lakes and icecream kiosk, a tall and shiny stainless steel cone supports a bunch of similarly shiny pick-up-sticks. It's light and playful. This Millennium Tree is the work of Wellington's Guy Ngan. It's a gift from the Chinese community and tells a story of love for this open-hearted, multicultural city.

We can't ignore the Winter Gardens. These Victorian glasshouses are full of fabulous flowers, giving a kaleidoscope of colour and rush of sweet perfume. The giant Amazonian lily, with its table-sized floating leaves, is an appropriately Victorian central stunt.

It's impossible to pass the kiosk and not get the girls a treat so I leave the crew licking icecream and duck across to Christine Hellyar's Spring. Big bronze fern fronds sprout from the earth but, unfortunately, the stone structures behind them make popular with ducks and are covered in poop. The next rain will clean them.

A big bird on the hill, a beady-eyed raptor, demands our attention. It looks amazing from afar, swooping down above the cricket grounds. The bird is Kaitiaki, the work of Fred Graham. It is worth walking around because it changes shape when seen from different angles.

It's downhill from here, past the museum. The girls veer off to play in the roots of a giant Morton Bay fig, an equally impressive natural sculpture, while we admire John Edgar's Transformer, two great stones. One is a low-lying, smooth lozenge, asking to be sat on, the other a tall angular obelisk. In a modern twist, embedded in the midriffs of both, stripes of red granite look like big barcodes. Everything has its price, perhaps?

Across open grass is Regeneration, by Neil Miller, an industrial steel construction, welded and bolted together. It is hard-edged and functional but the curved clambering tendrils of a native creeper soften it.

Miller's message may be that, whatever industrial mess man makes, the all-pervading power of nature will eventually put it right. That's the walk done, two hours of fun for both kids and grown-ups, exercise to make us feel virtuous, beautiful contemporary art, and we learn enough to want to learn more.

And it costs a few icecreams.

Art walk

If sculpture appeals try the Waterfront sculpture trail.

It begins inside the railway station with Michael Parekowhai's forest of stainless steel trees, juxtaposed with real plants in glasshouse-like Britomat.

Opposite, in Queen Elizabeth II Square, Te Ahi Kaa Roa is two slabs of stone cloaked in trickling water, with flames issuing from the top. It's a clever combination of earth, fire and water reminiscent of the volcanic origin of this sea-facing city. Beyond this, Maori Warrior greets people arriving from the ferries. The mere he holds is supposedly a symbol of peace, but he looks fairly scary.

I follow the trail to the end of Viaduct Harbour, going past Greer Twiss' Flight Trainer for Albatross, Eric Orr's Fire Window, Phil Price's Cytoplasm and Denis O'Connor's Raupo Rap. Besides the sculpture, it's a pleasant walk, with plenty of people- and boat-watching. My favourite is Cytoplasm - a kinetic piece where 16 pod-like discs move in the wind.

- NZ Herald

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