by Warren Feeney
Though I am aware of and take note of art installed in public places I visit, as a North Islander I admit to have been underinformed as to the extent of the work of SCAPE which, over the past 20 years, has provided Ōtautahi Christchurch with a record of art events enviable in the rest of the country.
This lack has been remedied by this very welcome book that gives the history of the city’s Public Art Trust in a suitably high-quality and artistic volume.
In my defence, if asked prior to reading it to vote on the most striking artwork in a public space, it would have been hard to go past the spectacular “Chalice” [Neil Dawson, 2000] in Cathedral Square – a work I’ve admired on visits to the city. A permanent installation, it remains, fortunately, and when I look through the pages at photos of others erected in subsequent biennial years I’m sorry I didn’t get to see those too when they were on display.
Art, being so subjective to the viewer, frequently gives rise to controversy, and this history tells not only of those that made it to installation but also a few that didn’t for one reason or another.
The intention for temporary works designed for exhibitions or seasons is that they be dismantled when the event is over and the place of the installation returned to its original state. It is for this reason too that this record is valuable and appreciated, so they can have an extended life through its pages.
Some of the artworks displayed in the SCAPE seasons have been modest in size, others massive. They have been constructed from almost every imaginable resource, including human artists and performers. Some have been thought-provoking, others intended for fun.
A few were commissioned to be permanent fixtures, and looking at the pictures of others it’s a shame more have not remained. We’d all have different choices of course. However, whether permanent or temporary, the hundreds of artworks have collectively contributed a lasting artistic legacy to Canterbury.
For those of us in different parts of the country who didn’t get to see the artworks when they were on display, we now have this excellent record – 180 pages of explanation, information on artists, and colour photos of the artworks themselves.
The book is replete with details of the organization and those involved. The text acknowledges the efforts of those whose inspiration and industry have made SCAPE the success it has earned, as well as the talents of the artists involved, those who have come up with the necessary sponsorship, and the goodwill and expertise of local firms in this coming together of art and industry.
One can choose to read it for this explanation and record or concentrate on the art itself. Whichever, it is a splendid work, a work of art itself.
Author: Warren Feeney
Publisher: SCAPE Public Art Trust
Available: bookshops; www.scapepublicart.org.nz/support-shop/pre-order