The artist Michael Parekowhai, was chosen to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale last year. This month, his sculptures are on show in Christchurch. In Venice, his bull on a piano was set in a garden. In Christchurch it is on an empty section where a building has been demolished. Instead of a garden, there is a pile of concrete rubble from a demolished building and in the distance are cranes and partly demolished buildings. It is the opposite of a peaceful and beautiful garden setting.
The bull and piano are made of bronze and painted black. In fact, there are two pianos, one with a bull sitting and looking while the other piano has a standing bull. Inside is a red carved piano. The carvings are both Maori symbols and European symbols. When the exhibition is open, pianists are playing the piano for visitors.
The title of the art works is “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” which is the title of a poem by John Keats. It is about the excitement of experiencing great art and the old world facing the new world. The piano represents European culture but the carvings include the artist’s Maori culture.
Listen to The Venice Biennale to hear about New Zealand’s entry in this exhibition in 2009.
Click on Venice Biennale 2011 to see Michael Parekowhai’s work.
sculpture – three-dimensional art works
rubble – concrete and brick rubbish after demolition of a building
crane – a machine for lifting heavy things e.g. a concrete ball to demolish a building
bronze – mixture of copper and tin
symbols – things which represent different cultures
Note: Homer’s poem, ‘The Odyssey’, was written in Greek. Keats was excited when he read the translation by Chapman.
Why was Christchurch chosen for the first NZ exhibition of this work?