For the last 30 years Graham Bennett has invited us to question human interaction with the natural environment and Weighting and Waiting continues this theme. In this significant exhibition Bennett’s sculptures investigate the checks and balances involved in economic, industrial and agricultural development, and the environmental cost we ultimately have to pay. How do we measure net gains and losses when there is more than one scale to take into account?
The beautifully crafted levers, counter-weights and receptacles created by Bennett suggest an adult’s Meccano set, with much more to consider than how the nuts and bolts fit together. The quasi-scientific form of Weight of Evidence Wait of Evidence pointedly comments on the industrialisation of milk production: can pollution of waterways and the creeping monopolisation of land use be in anyway countered by the economic heft of the dairy multi-nationals? The weathered and rusted steel used in this piece appears to have seen better days and its contrast with the incorruptible polycarbonate might well suggest that this is one battle where science and industry will prevail.
From the intimacy of Short Weight to the imposing T.R.I.G, Bennett’s works are exquisitely balanced in terms of materials, composition and form. The pointed brass feet of T.R.I.G mimic the form of the rimu pointers atop the work. These counterbalanced pointers can be manipulated, allowing a very real interaction with the work that drives home the message that we can indeed affect the balance of things surrounding us. Carefully dovetailed black and white joins serve an aesthetic as well as a practical purpose, creating a series of dynamic dashes which frame Bennett’s text. Hanging world globes, coloured to emphasise New Zealand’s distinct place in the world, swing freely at the slightest touch - reminders of the fragile and inter-connected equilibrium of the environment.
Bennett’s clever use of scale in this show allows viewers to move easily between the personal and the global, at the same time making us very aware that both these spheres are intrinsically linked. Similar motifs are used throughout the range of works and they deliver cohesion of form that underlines the cohesion of thought behind them. A large work such as T.R.I.G interacts with its environment and its viewers on a public platform, inviting open discussion about the “issues [that] confront us [and] the uncertainty of how much time we have to address them.” The tiny Wait Watches pieces can be used to adorn the body, at the same time functioning as a type of personal and private memento mori – a constant reminder of these same concerns.
The sculptures in Weighting and Waiting address very real concerns: “What, we wonder, and where, are the tipping points?” As an artist, Bennett poses the questions, but he leaves it to us to riddle out the answers.
TO VIEW ALL 18 WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION, PLEASE SEE THE EXHIBITION CATALOGUE