Fields of dreams

A prop­erty near Auck­land is home to an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of sculp­ture

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays For Seniors - HELEN McKEN­ZIE

ROBERT Gar­rett, an in­de­pen­dent art cu­ra­tor, an­nounces: ‘‘There’s a storm com­ing from the north­east and pos­si­bly one from the west; it could get very windy and chilly and you may need your gum­boots.’’

We are on our way to Gibbs Farm sculp­ture col­lec­tion and Gar­rett is our guide. On­the hour-long jour­ney north­west from cen­tral Auck­land to the locked farm gates on the edge of Kaipara Har­bour, Gar­rett gives us the low­down on the 26 world-class sculp­tures in the col­lec­tion.

The works have been ‘ ‘ bought off the shelf’’ or com­mis­sioned by en­gi­neer Alan Gibbs over the past 20 years. Gibbs’s busi­ness in­ter­ests in­clude the de­sign and pro­duc­tion of am­phibi­ous craft.

All vis­its here must be pre-ar­ranged on des­ig­nated open days and, at our ap­pointed time, the gates are opened and we drive down the track. One wow mo­ment fol­lows an­other with such quick suc­ces­sion that I’d like the planet, or maybe just the bus, to slow down a bit.

Large-scale sculp­tural works are care­fully po­si­tioned at van­tage points on lakes or the rolling green pad­docks that run down to the har­bour on the 400ha prop­erty. I can only com­pare the ex­pe­ri­ence with spy­ing a big cat on sa­fari in Kenya — sur­prise, de­light and a feel­ing of great good for­tune.

On the coach, Gar­rett has told us that Gibbs land­scaped the land­scape and we now see what this means. The neigh­bour­ing farms have scrubby veg­e­ta­tion. On Gibbs Farm, the in­dige­nous trees have mostly been axed and the grass man­i­cured by trac­tor-driven lawn­mow­ers. Land­scap­ing goes be­yond at­ten­tion to green­ery. Lakes have been cre­ated and moun­tains moved — well, hills re­formed to spec­i­fi­ca­tions that en­hance the art­works.

The bus stops at the new­est ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tion, by US artist Maya Lin. I don’t im­me­di­ately reg­is­ter that the five large grass-cov­ered mounds I’m look­ing at are, in fact, Lin’s work. It is called A Fold In The Field, com­pris­ing 105,000 cu­bic me­tres of earth, cov­er­ing 3ha and stand­ing up to 11m. It is only by climb­ing the cre­ations and view­ing from var­i­ous an­gles that the artistry is truly re­vealed.

Down on the tidal flats are 11 arches formed with bricks made from red Scot­tish sand­stone. This is the work of Andy Goldswor­thy; they are sit­u­ated askew and in their wa­tery site make me think of the mag­i­cal Nessie in her Scot­tish loch. Gar­rett says they hark back to Ro­man times in the way they have been con­structed and asks us to imag­ine the work a hun­dred years on.

Weare told that many artists have been in­tim­i­dated by this land­scape; most have cre­ated works of a scale not pre­vi­ously at­tempted.

Richard Serra’s Te Tuhi­rangi Con­tour and Anish Kapoor’s Dis­mem­ber­ment, Site 1 do bat­tle for Gibbs Farm’s most ex­tra­or­di­nary work. The com­pe­ti­tion is fierce. Serra’s con­tour, made of 6m-high sec­tions of steel placed at an an­gle of 11 de­grees to the con­tour of the land, is a feat of en­gi­neer­ing. Stand­ing be­neath it and look­ing up at clouds pass­ing, you could be on a mov­ing ship. It is forged, mas­cu­line and dom­i­nant but such is its el­e­gance, it also looks like a gen­tly un­furled rib­bon.

Kapoor has said that artists make mytholo­gies and it is true of this work. It breathes. Made of PVC mem­brane and moved by the wind, it is alive and shaped as if to make mu­sic; it cer­tainly plays with your heart­strings.

All the fresh air and walk­ing helps us make light work of our pic­nic lunch. Al­most dis­ap­point­ingly, the threat­en­ing storms hold off. It would be great to re­turn one day to wit­ness the drama of na­ture com­pet­ing with art. Helen McKen­zie was a guest of the 2013 Auck­land Art Fair.


Large-scale sculp­tural works are care­fully po­si­tioned at van­tage points on Gibbs Farm

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