Virginia King: Nikau - Spirit & Illusion

22 January - 21 February 2021

The gallery is very excited to exhibit renowned sculptor Virginia King in the Main Gallery.


"..Kauri: Spirit and Illusion

The Waipoua Forest is not far from Ohaeawai in Northland, where I grew up. The forest was one of my favourite places and I loved to visit there with my dad.

It always seemed to be summer with cicada song.  I loved the dark green canopy blocking out the sky, the coolness of lush ferns and the leafy smell of the bush.

I loved its beauty, the strength and majesty of the trees.  The visits introduced me to the sounds of the forest and the spirit of Kauri.

My first Public Commission in 1999 was to create a Kauri Forest Canopy and Forest Floor, as a suspended Atrium work.

I created a canopy of five Kauri trunks between five and a half and nine metres in height seven Nikau fronds and a forest floor of Terrazite with bronze inlays.

The Nikau works inspired Matiatia frond which was exhibited in Sculpture on the Gulf 2003.

Twenty years later in 2019, I was advised the work was to be decommissioned.  I arranged to reclaim the work and delivered the lengthy trunk components into storage. Richard and Christine Didsbury of Brick Bay Sculpture Trail offered their Kahikatea grove as a new location for the work.

As I watched the Brick Bay team manoeuvre the huge trunks into place among the Kahikatea, it all appeared strangely familiar – I felt I was looking back in time, at seeing history and the Kauri logging industry being reversed.

At Brick Bay the Kauri work has begun a new life with the new name Aetherium Ancestral Vale.The suspended trunks move slightly in the open air and appear ghost-like.  In this location where the ephemeral installation is accompanied by Nikau and mature Kahikatea trees the work also makes an oblique reference to Kauri Die Back.

In the short film of the installation I have drawn on my previous body of work and film Styx (Sticks)

Kauri: Spirit and Illusion  October 2020.

After his return from the First World War my dad, Frances Leo Ryan was appointed in 1929, to the Northland Maori Council with Sir Apirana Ngata, and reappointed every four years until 1940.  Among the roles of the Northland Maori Council was the protection of the Northland Kauri Forests and providing Marae with fresh drinking water.

Virginia King 2020

 From the family tree, to the tree of knowledge / tree of life, to the tree of memory / forests have provided an indispensable resource of symbolism in the cultural evolution of humankind.   Forests: Ronald Pogue Harrison

Nikau Fronds float in the main gallery