New sculpture at the Cenotaph unveiled

15 April 2015

Walk the Line, by artist Joe Sheehan, will be unveiled by the Mayor, Celia Wade Brown. The work marks the historic Wai Piro stream within the re-landscaped Cenotaph precinct.

Pounamu disks from Walk the Line by Joe Sheehan.

Pounamu disks from Walk the Line by Joe Sheehan


As part of the Cenotaph development the Wellington City Council invited the Wellington Sculpture Trust to commission a work of art to mark the original bed of the stream which once flowed down what is now Bowen Street across the precinct to the nearby foreshore. The stream was culverted many years ago and now runs well below Bowen Street, Lambton Quay and Whitmore Street.

With Joe’s installation the old path of the Wai Piro stream will be marked by over 300 carved jade and pounamu discs, meandering as a ‘stream’ through the precinct.  They will be carved from a range of Nephrite types sourced from the West Coast of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Russia, Mongolia and China.

Running under the discs will be a below-ground speaker system providing the sound of a running stream, all recorded from several stretches of water around Te Ahumairangi which feed the Wai Piro stream.

Chair of the Wellington Sculpture Trust, Sue Elliott, said: “Following a rigorous selection process, Joe’s work was selected because it offered a contemporary public art work that was compatible with the commemorative purpose of the site, while marking the historic stream. Walk the Line invites people to consider the history of the site through sight and sound.

“Joe’s work is an intelligent and sensitive response to our brief creating a ghost-like presence of the stream that talks to the site’s pre-colonial location on the foreshore.”

“Joe is an exceptional artist whose meticulous craftsmanship combined with a creative and poetic sensibility has created something truly special for the city,” Sue Elliott said.

The Mayor, Celia Wade Brown said: “Walk the Line’s path within the Cenotaph area will be much travelled with the new Parliamentary Steps sweeping down into the precinct connecting the city and the Beehive physically and symbolically.  The work reflects the rich Maori heritage of the area and contributes to our sense of place as the Capital.”

Wellington City Council has provided the site; $40,000 through the Public Arts Fund; and, as with all the Trust sculptures, will assume ownership and the on going maintenance once completed.

The Trust raised $140,000 through major sponsorship from LT McGuinness, Creative New Zealand, The Wellington Community Trust, and Collin Post, as well as funds from its membership and other supporters.

Joe Sheehan said of his work: “The sense of movement, change and reflection of the Cenotaph site will be echoed in the work.  The two parts of the work, the stream of discs and the sound, will work together but each will come to the fore at different times of the day. During the busier times the soundscape will slip into the background and the visual element will come into focus, the dotted line drawing people through the site. Then in the early morning, the evening and at night, as the visual elements drop back the sounds will go to work, ghosting into the space and creating a place of reflection and commemoration."

Joe was one of the inaugural recipients of the NZ Arts Foundation’s New Generation Awards in 2006. These awards are presented each year to artists who have demonstrated excellence in the early stages of their careers. In 2008 Joe was invited to represent New Zealand in the 28th Sao Paulo Bienal in Brazil, and in 2010 he received an Antarctica Fellowship.