Light Box Exhibition Sheds Light on Fallow Rugby Fields

4 August 2011

A new collaborative photographic exhibition by Andy Palmer and David Boyce will be unveiled in a couple of weeks' time at the light boxes in Courtenay Place Park.

'Pilgrimage' was selected by Wellington City Council's Public Art Panel following a call to artists for proposals linked to competitive sport, particularly the Rugby World Cup that's due to kick off in early September.

Wellington City Council's Arts and Culture Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, says the exhibition is a thoughtful tribute to the national sport.

"We're going to have thousands of visitors to the city during this time," says Cr Ahipene-Mercer. "And where there'll likely be images of rugby players plastered around the city in print and on screen, this exhibition will be a calm contrast to the goings on. It also gives us a chance to demonstrate - in a very public way - the rich variety and high calibre of Wellington art."

The title was initially inspired by a 1904 Evening Post article, where the nation's excitement about rugby was already firmly cemented in New Zealand culture: 'All Wellington, and all those who could find time and money to come to Wellington, flocked to Athletic Park... men hailing from hill, valley, or plain, from provincial township or wayback station - farmers, miners, sawmillers, clerks, bank managers - all sorts and condition of men, bent on a pilgrimage to the altar of the deity of Rugby.'

Andy Palmer went on something of a pilgrimage himself, where he took off to the Wairarapa, King Country, the East Cape and more, in search of rugby fields to photograph.

"I was surprised to find so many desolate fields," says Andy. "There was a sense of loneliness in these places - something that hopefully comes across in the images."

Andy also explores issues such as the environmental impact and the cultural phenomena of rugby and its relationship to patriotism and national identity.

Conceptual artist David Boyce looks at how cultural influences can come full circle. David says he is "interested in the beauty of things that we usually pass over" and also "the transformation of the mundane" and has used this in his approach to these works.

David lives in China where he has been influenced by traditional Chinese scroll painting and calligraphy. His works, which are a commentary on the confluence of sport and language, use photographs of simple markings on sports grounds to create calligraphic-like images.

"I find it interesting that I left Wellington to live in China and I am now bringing a version of China back to a part of Wellington that has strong historical connections to China and Chinese culture - the nearby Haining Street area," says David.

'Pilgrimage' will be on view in the Courtenay Place Park light boxes from Friday 19 August until December. There will be an opening celebration at 6pm at Suite Gallery, 108 Oriental Parade - just across the road from Freyberg Pool - where David is exhibiting more works from the series. Media are invited to attend.