Client: Auckland Transport / Smales Farm Ltd.
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Completion date: 2011
Contrax Ltd. Site Works
Public Art Agent
Rob Garrett Curator
‘Silhouette’ won a national public art competition for a site specific commission at the gateway to a city transport hub. Located within an award-winning commercial park in Auckland New Zealand, the sculpture tableau, comprising black granite and white glacial stone, marks the transport station’s position at the edge of a volcanic lava flow. A symbol of endurance, strength and protection, ‘Silhouette’ has brilliant reflections and intriguing shadows, directly responding to changes of weather and light. Experienced by thousands of people every day, this elegant abstract artwork greets all travellers, offering a contemplative moment in a place of constant transition.
Arising from a unique civic/commercial public art collaboration, the brief required a place-making sculpture with timeless qualities. To meet those goals, the artist integrated the history, function and philosophy of site, geophysics, and design context, into the sculpture’s composition. Bracketed by green-star commercial architecture, modern station building, parkland and ponds, ‘Silhouette’ combines nature and geometry. Standing above a large deposit of Pleistocene basalt, the stone monolith recalls the elongated seams of black stone extracted from this site to build roads. The two tonne block of pure black granite was specially quarried in India and shipped to New Zealand where it was carved into a 3m high column that dissects the white glacier stone platform. Creating a geometric grid of intersecting planes, the vertical space contains the viewer, creating a portrait and personal frame or lens through which to shape the world. This frame is also a passage, doorway or entrance, inviting people to symbolically or physically step through. A continuum of content is captured in reflection and shadow, an ephemeral foil to the solid rock, challenging perceptions of substance, space and time. Solid and enduring, ‘Silhouette’ encapsulates the history of the land, the station’s purpose and rhythmic flow of people.
Project management was undertaken by Gill Gatfield Studios, in 3 stages. First, a unique block of high quality stone exceeding normal commercial quarrying parameters was specially quarried in India and shipped to NZ. Fabrication in NZ involved staged complex processes to create a central void in the solid block. With no back or front, all edges and faces are smooth and polished. Second phase involved developing the site and platform. The artist was invited to select the site and design the sculpture context in collaboration with landowner and engineers. Geo-technical input ensured stability of volcanic substrate. Land re-contouring and new retaining walls contained the ponds and achieved a large level platform, surfaced with the artist’s formulated mix of white NZ glacier stone. Third stage involved installation of the granite form and connecting all elements. In profile, the monolith becomes a single vertical line, pencil thin, creating tension in the work. Using native planting, landscape architects worked with the artist to integrate the abstract sculpture with the ponds and green space. The resulting sculpture layout and landscape design creates a smooth transition between built and natural elements, developing a new public amenity at this major transport hub.
Jury Statement - National Public Art Award 2011: ‘Gill Gatfield’s ‘Silhouette’ is artistically outstanding and expresses a clear connection to the site and its history. This work will have a long life in the community and will reward people with repeat viewings. ‘Silhouette’ is a superbly elegant and imaginative response to the special history of the site. The solid form punctuated by space and the three elements of stone, air and shadow, contain ideas of endurance and aspiration.’ Silhouette, sculpture tableau: black granite and white glacier stone, dimensions 20mL x 6mW x 3mH (66’L x 20’W x 9’H).