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Cambridge Library pillar mural

Concept submission. Watercolour on paper.

The Waipa and Districts Public Library called for submissions by artists for a commission to paint a structural pillar in the Cambridge Library in 2019. The brief asked for a concept which incorporated ideas of literature, the Cambridge community and people of all ages. I am so proud to have been chosen to be a part of this public piece of art in a facility in Cambridge which I frequent so often with my children.

Concept Premise

Literature and visual art are often inspired by actual experiences: a story might be based on an event, or a painting from the appreciation of the natural world. In my approach to this proposed artwork I considered what inspires and connects us as a Cambridge community, past and present, young and old.

Thought was also been given to the architectural nature of painting on a pillar. The artwork is a three-dimensional element that can be walked around and experienced from different directions, the whole artwork cannot be appreciated from any one point. Furthermore, the artwork needed to be continuous around the pillar, bearing no specific beginning or end.

Design Concept

I chose Lake Te Koo Utu as the muse for my concept. It is an outdoor space that inspires visual art and contains history and stories that are the basis of literary ideas.

The lake and its walls are used by all ages in our community. As an artist I am stirred by the many colours and textures of the foliage, by the changing light in the shadows and reflections off the water. Many share the enjoyment of this sanctuary, a place to connect with friends, a place to play with children, a place to exercise, a place to chat and share stories, a place to collect our thoughts. It’s significance to early Māori and wartime uses embed a tapestry of time and importance to the place as well.

The circular nature of the lake park walls also mean that, like a pillar, it is a space we experience whilst moving around. In an abstracted way I have reflected the cliff walls of the lake onto the pillar. The accentuated details of the different foliage patterns are representative of the experience of a Lake Te Koo Utu walk. Abstraction also allows us to make our own interpretation, create our own imagined stories. Like the changing environment of the lake, the viewer might see new elements in the artwork each time they visit the library.

The bold colours and graphical black line-work also acknowledge the architectural quality of the artwork. Rather than competing with the patterns of books already in the texture of the library, the bold colours help to anchor the artwork in the space.

Design resolution and meaning: A bowlful of stories

‘Shall we walk around the lake?’ One friend said to another.

As the friends set off they shared stories from their week with each other. They paused to nod and say, ‘Good morning’ to an older couple walking in the opposite direction, arm in arm around the lake. The couple veered off the path to a park bench, overlooking the water, and sat contemplatively in one another’s company.

Nearby a young family chased one another on the grass, an excited dog at their heels.

Lake Te Koo Utu is a Cambridge locale where stories are created by the many generations who use the lake as a place to meet up, exercise and play. Māori tradition and other history, such as World War II, are interwoven into the fabric of the lake; we can still see the remnants of the world war ammunitions bunker.

Lake Te Koo Utu and its significance as a meeting place is the inspiration for this mural. Like the walls of the park, the pillar is designed to be experienced ‘in the round’. As you journey around it you might see some of the patterns of foliage and features that can be experienced when walking around the lake.

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