New public art for Ara: Collidescape

News News & events

16 Sep 2016

Vowels will collide on a glass canvas on the new Te Kei building at Ara Institute of Canterbury in Catherine Griffiths’ latest commission.

Catherine Griffiths

Currently under construction, Te Kei (Administration Hub) will bring together the functions of the Executive team, Human Resources, Finance, Workforce Development, Marketing Services and the Project Management Office, which makes way for the Rakaia Centre to be refurbished as a Student Hub.

Te Kei will be the first port-of-call for the many industry, international and government representatives who visit Ara and an artwork has been commissioned to ensure that their first impression is of a visually exciting and relevant space.

Te Kei continues the institute’s commitment to art as an integral part of lively, modern learning spaces, recently expressed though Wayne Youle’s THE HOUSE OF WELLBEING ALL WELCOME, at the entrance to the Whareora (Science and Wellbeing facility, completed last year) and Niki Hastings-McFall’s Hope Fully Fledged for the atrium of Kahukura (Engineering and Architectural Studies building, also under construction).

Collidescape impression at the entrance of the new Te Kei Building, courtesy of the artist.

Griffiths has been engaged to produce the artwork Collidescape, an exercise in typography and design over a seven metre high grid of glass panels at the entrance of the building. Echoes of the work were later developed to wrap around the windows of the entire structure.

“Collidescape is a visual rendition of the vowels, in this case, a collision of the vowels—a language (or sound) landscape,” she says.

The work also responds to the landscaping planned for the interior of the campus bounded by Te Kei, the Rakaia Centre, Te Puna Wanaka and other buildings.

“The composition will be visible as a whole when viewed from the green grass space opposite, and in part from inside. A shift in pattern and shape can be made out from the graphic chaos of the forms —the work is open for interpretation by the viewer, just as the vowels belong to everyone.”

Collidescape impression in situ on the new Te Kei Building, courtesy of the artist.

Griffiths has previously explored design and typography in her best known work, the 15 large-scale, three dimensional concrete text sculptures of the Wellington Writers Walk, commissioned by the New Zealand Society of Authors.

She has also wrapped a private home, Ponatahi House ‘in literature’ with 120 glass panels etched with the work of then poet laureate Jenny Bornholdt, which could be read from inside the house.

The first of the Vowel series (‘Collidescape’ is the fifth in the series) was in 2009 for Cubana Apartments in Cuba Street, Wellington. The third in the series ‘Fifth Movement’ was conceived as a solution to cracking in a concrete floor for Takapuna House designed by Athfield Architects, but quickly outgrew its brief.

In all the works, despite differences in scale and materials, words and vowels play a central role. This is a good fit for a vocational educational institute such as Ara.

It is anticipated that the Te Kei building, together with its striking artwork, will be open in mid-2017.