Client: Sculpture by the Sea, Denmark
Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Completion date: 2015
Gill Gatfield Studio
Structure Design Engineers
Public Art Agent
Karen Louise Juhl Christensen
A reflective black granite sculpture shaped as a monumental text message – x, ‘The Kiss’ is a letter, symbol, mathematical sign, cross, circle and square. An artist-led project, ‘The Kiss’ took 2 years from conception to realisation while working across three time zones and three languages – Hindi, Danish and English. Four tonnes of outsized black granite were specially quarried in India, then shipped and constructed in Aarhus, Denmark for the international biennial Sculpture by the Sea. Standing over 6.5 ft/2m tall, with a 10 ft/3m diameter, ‘The Kiss’ embraces and reflects the human figure in the environment.
In open space and surrounded by nature, ‘The Kiss’ combines ancient stone and pure geometric form with contemporary content. It offers a seductive narrative drawing from history, science, philosophy, psychology, language and aesthetics. Both form and method of construction enact a kiss. The scale embraces individuals and groups, providing an inclusive experience while still enabling freedom of movement. The X symbol represents universal human DNA - the genetic code shared by all women and men, regardless of nationality, race, and religion. Offering a sensory experience, people find intimacy, self-reflection, community and connection in the wings of ‘The Kiss’.
The stone used in 'The Kiss' exceeds commercial quarrying parameters and is of rare scale and quality. Sourcing the granite involved an international search spanning 3 continents by Gill Gatfield Studios, based in New Zealand. After two failed attempts, an outsized block was quarried in India and cut by skilled stonemasons using timeworn and leading edge technologies. Working with NZ engineer Peter Boardman on sculpture foundation and installation systems gave life to the artist’s objective of coupling equal yet independent elements. The method of construction expresses a central conceptual premise of 'The Kiss' – the partnership of equals. The selected site met the requirements of a white sand beach location offering contrast with the black stone, and wide open space, city and port views, forest backdrop, and elevated views of ‘The Kiss’. Steel fabrication, shipping and installation was coordinated with the Sculpture by Sea team in Denmark led by Karen Louise Juhl Christensen. Communications with Danish stonemasons and suppliers involved research and translation, assisted by Lars Svaerdpiil in Copenhagen. After many months of working across multiple time zones, the four tonnes of mirror-polished black granite was crated in India and shipped to the Port of Aarhus.
Presented in Denmark at the centenary of women's right to vote, ‘The Kiss’ became a symbol of equality. Visited by over 500,000 people this biennial sculpture exhibition is held in association with ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, under the patronage of Crown Prince Frederick and Princess Mary of Denmark. In 2016 ‘The Kiss’ completed its global journey, arriving in New Zealand to be presented at Christ’s College, Christchurch NZ for SCAPE Public Art. On the hallowed lawn of a historic boy’s school, surrounded by heritage architecture, in a city recovering from devastating earthquakes, ‘The Kiss’ again marks a treasured spot.