This exhibition, displayed in conjunction with Theatre Country, showcases sculptural and installation works from the Sarjeant Gallery’s collection that were inspired by birds and bird watching.
Messages communicated by these works include the loss of native habitats and extinction of native species in New Zealand, efforts to preserve what remains, and the principle of kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection). Candy Twitcher (2010) by Whanganui-born artist Kay Walsh was made in collaboration with architect John Verstappen during her three-month residency at Tylee Cottage in Whanganui in 2009. Taking the form of a bird-watching hut and constructed from recycled tongue and groove timber, Walsh invites the viewer to enter and view the gallery from a different perspective. The work was in part inspired by Mynah birds who were resident in the garden of the cottage during her stay in Whanganui. The structure also reminded Walsh of childhood huts remembered from her time growing up in Whanganui.
Auckland-based sculptor Warren Viscoe has had a long-held interest in exploring environmental issues through his large-scale sculptural works. In the 1982 installation work Fifteen Bird Calls that we have on view in the Gallery we see the artist using his preferred media – wood. The work is quite cryptic and as Curator Justin Paton noted that it explores the way “we endanger other forms of life even as we attempt to collect and care for them…” The work is a strange riddle with shuttlecocks – symbols of flight, contained in glass jars, like butterflies we captured as children and kept hostage in similar receptacles, thinking that puncture holes in the grease-proof paper lids would save the poor creatures from certain death.