A golden moment

Share a moment of magic and possibility under glittering golden leaves courtesy of Aotearoa New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson, who installed his work The Golden Bearing at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū remotely from his Auckland home under Level 3 restrictions.

The Golden Bearing opened at Christchurch Art Gallery on October 30 and runs until January 30 next year. The golden tree of no particular species, is a deliberately universal work that will mean something a little different to each person who visits.

Felicity Milburn, Lead Curator at the Gallery, says The Golden Bearing sits somewhere between fantasy and hyperrealism.

“It’s a golden tree growing indoors, so it is obviously artificial, but the artist’s careful inclusion of small details makes it unexpectedly convincing, from the knobbly undulations of the roots and trunk to the delicate leaves, which are light enough to move slightly in a breeze,” Ms Milburn says.

Artist Reuben Paterson (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi, Scottish) was born in Auckland in 1973.

He is best known for working with glitter, which he uses to create spellbinding surfaces, and to echo the dynamic movement of light in nature. Paterson’s paintings, sculptures and time-based works often incorporate Māori concepts and motifs, and references to the natural world.

The Golden Bearing stands 4.5 metres high and was created by hand using more than 200 kilograms of fibreglass, gold paint and glitter.

First created in 2013, discussions about bringing the work to Christchurch began shortly after the March 15, 2019, terror attacks, with Paterson wanting to offer “a little piece of joy” to the city.

“On a fundamental level, trees provide shelter, and we wanted to create a welcoming, family-friendly space where our visitors can experience something a bit magical, and where children can enjoy storytelling sessions under its leaves, or even post a picture to Instagram at #glittertree,” Ms Milburn says.

“The use of glitter will conjure up showbiz for some, but it’s also an effect found throughout nature – in the sparkle of wet sand, or the glistening frost on winter grass. That tension between what’s natural and what’s constructed is something Reuben has often worked with, not least because it offers a way to think about colonisation, and how ideas and belief systems from other places were imposed on the natural environment,” Ms Milburn says.

“In Aotearoa, trees contribute to our sense of identity in many different ways. In Te Ao Māori, they are connectors between human and spiritual worlds, with their roots grounding them in the earth as they reach for the sky. In Māori cosmology, it was Tāne, the forest god, who pushed apart his earth mother Papatūānuku and sky father Ranginui to create Te Ao Mārama – room and light for people. Paterson’s work plays in the space between all these ideas; linking nature and invention, reality and illusion, the past and possibility.”

Under-the-tree storytelling sessions and other events will take place over the duration of the exhibition. Keep an eye on www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz for details.

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