Sculpture Garden

Trend sees sculptural art mingling with nature

I live in Havelock North in a wooded area on the edge of the village.  Over the past 30 years many thousands of trees were planted on the lower slopes of Te Mata Peak, providing welcome shade for residents in Hawke’s Bay’s drought-prone summers and year-round sustenance to a rich variety of native birdlife. The trees also shelter the gardens from wind so it is possible to enjoy them through the year.

I have some of my own artwork (ceramic sculptures) in the garden – a selection of figures that were a bit damaged and as the pieces still had significance and meaning for me I placed them amongst the trees and foliage. 

A professional photographer discovered this combination of greenery, sculpture and shade and it led to feature article in a glossy lifestyle magazine.  It looked amazing through the eyes of her camera lens and reminded me that even relatively small sculptures can enhance a garden, and vice versa. It is something about being three-dimensional; human figures in a natural environment.

A decade ago when I was writing garden articles for the regional newspaper, I had privileged access to some beautiful and amazing gardens in rural Hawke’s Bay; homestead gardens surrounded by hundreds of acres of rolling hill country.  On one occasion I was surprised and delighted by a grouping of life-sized giraffe sculptures standing in a paddock near the homestead. The trend continued and art would be sighted in more of the gardens, coinciding with greater public exposure and the wider availability of sculptural art. 

The concept of art and sculpture in a garden landscape is not new. Sculptures of gods and mythical figures were a common feature in the classical gardens of the Mediterranean. As the young British aristocrats of the 17th and 18th centuries took their Grand Tours of Europe to be educated in its history, arts and culture, classical gardens featuring sculpture began to appear in the large estates of the British Isles. 

Many a New Zealand gardener has visited these inspiring gardens on their travels with the intention of borrowing ideas for their gardens at home and while it has taken time for the idea to take on here in any significant way, we have seen the massive art installations at Gibbs Farm on the Kaipara Harbour headlands and others, such as the Brick Bay Sculptural Trail in Northland that celebrate the possibilities of sculpture on a grand scale, on private land. 

Over the last twenty years a number of week-long Exhibitions of sculpture produced by artists from around New Zealand have been curated into gardens and significant locations such as Loudon Farm on Banks Peninsula, on Auckland’s North Head with Sculpture on the Shore, Sculpture in the Gulf at Waiheke Island and the Wildflower Sculpture Exhibition in Hawke’s Bay. 

Devised as fundraisers for very worthwhile causes, they have become major fixtures of the summer calendar; the success of these events reflecting a growing interest in sculpture while providing sculptors and artists with a wider market.

Taking in one of these ambitious art exhibitions is now a popular way of spending a day in a magnificent location, while experiencing the outdoors, art and becoming engaged with the creative forms and ideas on display. 

Many such festivals and events have had to be cancelled since the pandemic of Covid-19 swept into our lives but it can be hoped that as 2022 progresses the Covid management systems in place in New Zealand will allow us to enjoy them again.