"The Three Grandmothers"
These three predominant limestones, mounted appropriately outside Hurunui’s District Council, were not intended to represent the centre of this community, rather and more so, to represent a past community that was once the centre of this District.
Originating from rock drawings in the Weka Pass, North Canterbury, their inspiration has been captured by sculptor – Warren Thompson. It was two days of walking amongst potential rocks to intuitively choose the right ones to eventually create such similarity, an honour to bring his own interpretation of their original form from the hills down to this site.
To correct any misconceptions, these drawings are pre-Maori. Although in stating that, will not necessarily correct controversy. Like it or not, perhaps we should shrug and simply say "that’s art".
Indeed, it is – ancient art of a matriarchal society. A very spiritual and non-violent people included in history – known as WAITAHA. These people and their drawings can be found throughout New Zealand, spanning time of more than 1000 years.
This iconic exhibit, affectionately known as ‘The Grandmothers’ is symbolic of the three grandmothers who were the original family of Waitaha. Metaphorically – the three star nations of Waitaha.
The sculptor, Warren Thompson – a conducer for carving out their identity, each with its own portrayed feminine form.
The original forms as drawings were further derived from the three star system of Orion's Belt. It could be said, the stars have been given earthly existence.
Of course, each sculpture can also be individualised, perhaps as the whale or the now extinct laughing owl?
There are forms within forms, stories within stories. Just as Waitaha interpreted the stars.
Mounted on stainless steel pins, centred in their base, they look precariously balanced on their tapered plinths. Contrasts of formal and organic, uniform and variable, created and natural lines.
Late evening reflects fading light, accentuating images or they can be mystic and mysterious when come upon in the dark of night, an eerie surprise for the unsuspecting.
They may serve a part in all of us, however you comprehend.
Hand tooled for contrast of light and dark, they have an ambience of their own. Although curves are soft, straight alignment was important, to represent the star alignment of Orion's Belt and to generally point toward that astronomical direction.
One rectangular footing supports the individual stones, significant in representing foundation of strength years ago.
The plinths contain a splash of water and natural landscape depicted in their variations of blue and green recycled glass with predominant red pebbles from Amberley Beach.
More feelingly, the third has the red colouration of ochre, synonymous with the same natural stone that some of the original drawings are graced upon. Also it is this complete piece that is turned contrary to the other two. Maybe it is a tail that swishes? For not only the lay of the stone determined the placement, it also reminds us, there is never conformity in nature or history.
The landscape unfolds using hand picked grey waky stone, fresh from the Hurunui River and placed in the form of a canoe, embracing the ‘Grandmothers’ within. The canoes seats and boardwalkserving access to allow a closer affinity with each sculpture.
Red Jasper stone and complementary planting, accentuates the red ochre. Set in a ‘sea’ of tussock, this visual story is truly reminiscent of the hills beyond.
Ideally, this art is not about dogma nor judgement; it is of form and feeling.
What is it, or is it not? How it should be or shouldn’t be, the scenarios are endless. You may look – yet do you see? When the mind is quietened you become more aware, the forms become what you want them to be. Perhaps a meditation or a composition of photography.
To appreciate requires disassociation from the outside world. Consequently, ‘The Grandmothers’ could be an exercise in self-discipline. A 360o walk around and at every degree a new view can be seen.
They do not really need to be labelled.
The renowned sculptor Henry Moore said, "Sculpture is like a journey, you have a different view as you return".
Artistic passion and commitment to purpose, it has taken many hours of planning, practical application, time gifted and thankfully received.
There is much left unwritten.
Familiarise with what you see.
A representation of past and now present.
The conclusion is yours to experience and enjoy.