Michel Tufferys' Trailing Tangaroa headland Sculpture on the Gulf Photo Peter Rees

Packed ferries and the hottest days of summer can mean only one thing – headland Sculpture on the Gulf is back. Anniversary Weekend saw 8000 people walk the headland trail at Matiatia and the festival still has three weekends (including Waitangi Weekend) to run.
It’s the professionalism of the works that sums up the eighth edition of headland, whether contributions are from renowned or less-celebrated artists.
Gone is the unevenness – along with, perhaps, the jaw-dropping factor – of the festival’s fledgling years. Such is the weight of expectation raised by past events but in its place comes almost-uniform admiration. And if anyone is left wanting more after contemplating the 34 exhibits (including one “hidden gem”) on the headland trail in 2017, they could always think of the artists’ generosity.
As head curator Zara Stanhope told the gala opening last Thursday, it’s really rather tough to make large-scale outdoor sculptures in New Zealand. Not a lot of works are sold; making them is a labour of love.
For many, it was frantically hard labour after 100km/h winds on the weekend before the opening caused severe damage to several works. Remarkably, all was put right for the opening weekend.
Stanhope, head of programmes at the Auckland Art Gallery, headed a panel that whittled down the entries from 230 expressions of interest – more than twice the previous record.
Margaret Malaghan, who chairs the event’s board, told the launch it was an unenviable task.
Artists were asked to think about Waiheke, its history and its people – themes that shine through in many of the works. Overlooking the bay, Matt Ellwood’s A Corporate Development Memorial Outdoor Public Seating Sculpture references failed attempts to build a major shopping and hotel complex then a marina at Matiatia.
Wellington artist Michel Tuffery offers the shell form (made using jandals) as a metaphor for a recording device or witness to human waste with Trailing Tangaroa. He took inspiration from his 2016 residency at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery when he inspected middens on the island.
Paora Toi-Te-Rangiuaia references the traditional harvesting of sharks by Hauraki tribes using a repetitive circular pattern in Barry’s Catch. Tui sit on the vertical posts – a reference to marae orators – while the positioning of the work reflects an 1850 Charles Heaphy painting.
Migration and post-migration experiences are explored by several artists, with both Tiffany Singh and Kazu Nakagawa incorporating vocal and music recordings.
Some works will evolve as the festival progresses, including local artist Richard Maloy’s forms & other things, sourced from finest Waiheke clay.
Others call for audience participation. On Anniversary Day, families at Matiatia took the opportunity to create Golden River of Boats, inspired by the painted paper boats which adorn Singh’s contribution, The Journey Of A Million Miles Begins With One Step.
Off trail, there’s a rich programme of events and opportunities to meet and interact with artists, to get creative or simply to unwind to the diverse musical line-up in The Pavilion while tasting local foods, craft beer and wine.
In Oneroa, the lively summer exhibition Sculpt Oneroa continues to invite visitors to take selfies of themselves with the plump family of penguins in the centre of town and enjoy the artwork woven into the fabric of the village. Exhibiting artists are Nigel Scanlon, Sally Smith, Olivier Du Hamel, Jay and Maria Lloyd, Paora-Toi-Te-Rangiuaia, William Staal, Glen Davis, Belinda Fabris, Daniel Johner, Oliver Stretton-Pow and Veronika Evans-Gander.

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