Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Chaise Lange' - A new commission by Peter Lange

On Friday 28th of May at 461 Karangahape Road, a new work by Peter Lange, studio artist at Corban Estate Art Centre, will be unveiled to the public. 'Chaise Lange', the title typically tongue-in-cheek, is a public bench atop an undulating ‘flax’ mat comprised of thirteen hundred hand-made tiles. It replaces the organically inspired ferro-cement seat and accompanying plant bed which has been a familiar sight for over two decades.

Jointly funded by the K’Road Business Association (KBA), Western Bays Community Board, Auckland City Council, Uptown Arts Trust and Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret, the seat will be officially gifted to the city by the KBA. Lange gives particular credit to the vision of Barbara Holloway (KBA) and Nora West (formerly of KBA) and commends them and the Auckland City Council, for their “positive approach”.

Lange, chiefly known for his playful brick sculptures, was commissioned four years ago to replace the “much loved” crumbling street furniture outside no. 461. The fixture’s iconic status was in part because of its close association with Caluzzi Cabaret Bar and its role as prop in drag queen performances. Lange comments that “…that part of K Rd is fairly flamboyant with a lively night life...I wanted to make a seat that had a certain exuberance... (and) perhaps a slightly camp feeling to it.” 'Chaise Lange' is playfully illusionistic and sinuously dynamic. It has also been built to withstand the weight of three substantial dancers.

The thirteen-hundred hand-made tiles which replicate the look of woven harakeke (flax) are bolstered by 300 – 400 kilograms of steel reinforcing. Working in steel was a new approach for the ceramicist. He is thankful he called on the services of other specialists to assist with the steel structure.

The individually shaped tiles were designed on a computer program. Although subject to shrinkage and changes to curvature though firing, he says “...I didn’t have too much trouble on the way”. Ending up with too many left hand tiles and not enough right hand tiles was also a problem easily resolved. With help from his daughter Jenny, the bespoke tiles were successfully fitted into the myriad of curves in the design.

Lange has used the concept of woven fibre before. It features in brick, as seen in, ‘Brick Bag’ on Waiheke. Another piece is the ‘woven tent’ at Auckland Botanical Gardens, made with fired tiles over a fiberglass structure. Lange states, “I love the illusion of flax weaving – there is nothing too profound about it, (it) is simply a surface I enjoy reproducing. I enjoy the kind of double-take it can induce in the viewer”. Playing with illusion and the contradictions possible between materials versus subject has always been rich with potential for artists. This is certainly the case for Lange. 'Chaise Lange' is a continuation of that exploration and is a striking piece of street furniture with an important role to play on one of Auckland’s most colourful streets.

Kyla Mackenzie

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