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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Ferns – by Neil Dawson

How better to begin a series about the art we pass every day in Wellington than with an artwork whose surroundings are as much a part of it as its physical formation? Suspended above Civic Square, the ball itself is an emblem of New Zealand, while the placement, to me, is a metaphor for Wellington. It lies in the heart of the city: Civic Square. On the threshold of the CBD, the creative and fun end of town, and the harbour. It is the centerpiece to the library (with Ian Athfield’s complementary Nikau Palm structures), the city gallery, a children’s theatre, the town hall, another big concert hall, the city council, a centre for out-of-towners and steps leading to the ocean. Perfect.

In its name, too, Civic Square is the perfect location for what Dawson intends to be an embodiment of democracy. The spherical form of the hollow ball is the same from all angles, but is made up of varying shapes, five different species of native ferns.

The work is also inspired by how Dawson imagines Wellington to have looked before the arrival of the first human settlers. While Athfield’s palms are large architectural icons, Ferns is “a sort of delicate intricacy that can float over the top of the palms so that the two elements can work with each other” (says the artist himself in Ferns, by Jim and Mary Barr, Wellington: City Gallery, 1998). The underside of the aluminium ferns (inside the ball) are pained gold, and the outerside is silver. The gold and silver together follow the feng shui concept that gold and silver in spherical form can concentrate and radiate energy. It brings a beautiful aesthetic quality, particularly against a blue sky of a golden heart shining out of New Zealand’s silver fern.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Wellington Sculpture Trust, the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts and the City Gallery in 1998.

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About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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