He toka mata-te-rā

Chris Booth

21 January – 30 April

He toka mata-te-rā brings together a collection of maquettes and other works by Chris Booth, aiming to offer insight into the thought and production processes behind the public artworks of this renowned Northland sculptor and land artist. The title refers to a rock face that collects, resonates with, and distributes the warmth and energy of the sun, much as a stone taonga worn around the neck of a person can be imbued with a purpose through a karakia, and in resonating with and transmitting that purpose, also attracts the interest, curiosity, and warmth of others. In mātauranga Māori, stone is regarded as having an affinity to heat, as it is kōhatu–a gift from the angry god Tūmātauenga, who brings forth molten lava from the skin of his mother Papatūānuku. As the molten rock hardens, its heat (and anger) dissipates, but stone retains an affinity for warmth, whether that of the sun or of human minds and bodies.

He toka mata-te-rā ka kawe kotahi i tētahi kohikohinga huahua me ētahi atu mahi nā Chris Booth, ka whakakeko aronga ki roto i ngā whakaaro me ngā hātepe whakaputa kei muri i ngā mahi toi pāpori a tēnei kai tārai me te ringa toi whenua rongonui nō Te Taitokerau. Ko te tohu whakapuaki ka tohutoro ki te mata toka ka kohikohi, ka tōiriiri, ka tohatoha i te mahana me ngā pūngao a te rā, he rite ki te taonga kōhatu ka kuhungia makere ki te kaki a te tangata, ka whakataputia he pūtake, mā te karakia, ā, mā te tōiriiri me te whakapāho i tērā pūtake, e whai panga ai te whai tikanga, te manawa reka, te me te mahana a ētahi kē atu. Ki roto i te mātauranga Māori, ko te kōhatu ka whakatohutia kia whai panga ki te Atua pukuriri ki a Tūmātauenga, nāna ka hōmai i te tokarewa tahepuia mai i te kiri o tōna whaea i a Papatūānuku. Ka whakapakeke te tokarewa tahepuia, ko tana wera (me te pukuriri) ka makariri, engari ka mau tonu te hototahi mō te mahana, mēnā ko tērā nā te rā, nā ngā hinengaro, nā ngā tinana tāngata rānei.

In this way, the exhibition’s title also reflects Chris Booth’s interest in the structural underpinnings of the natural world, and his way of seeing the observable, tangible aspects of nature as reflections of underlying forces and principles. Booth recalls that, as a young artist working in John Milne’s studio in St Ives, Cornwall in the 1960s, “simply standing and looking at the earth my feet rested on was my way of dealing with the multitude of messages I was receiving.” One of his earliest sculptures, Section, was his way of exploring the “precise and efficient engineering” required for a blade of grass to stand upright and move with the wind, specifically the interacting forces of “tension and compression.” While not explicitly a maquette, Section, a table-scale work, would prefigure the extensive production of scale models that Booth continued throughout his career.

Mā roto i tēnei ara, ko te whakatohu whakapuaki mō te whakaatūranga ka whakahua i ngā whai panga a Chris Booth i ngā raupapa whakapūmau o te ao tūturu, ā, me tōna momo kite i ngā mātai kitenga, ngā tūāhuatanga tōpana me ngā matapono. Ka maumahara Booth ki tana wā ringa toi rangatahi, i a ia e mahi ana ki te taupuni mahi a John Milne ki Cornwall ki ngā tau 1960, “ Ko te tū me te mātakitaki kau noa ki te whenua e noho nei aku waewae ki runga, ko taku huarahi tuari i ngā kōrero maha e whiwhia ana e au” Ko tētahi o ana tāraitanga tuatahitanga, ko Section, ko tōna ara hōpara i te “ metarahi pū me te pai” e whai take ai kia tū ki runga, kia korikori ki te hau he, rau karaehe, koia pū ko ngā tōpana taunekeneke o te “tanuku me te kōpeketanga”. Ahakoa ehara engia anō i te huahua, ko Section, he mahi āwhata ripanga, ka whakahau i te mahinga maha o ngā tauira āwhata ka haere noatia e Booth puta noa i tōna ūmanga.

Much as his own works function as expressions of the seismic, climactic or otherwise systemic processes of nature, Booth’s maquettes are microcosmic reflections of larger works, whether planned, executed or merely hypothetical. Maquettes and models have a “mō ngā mahi” special power to engage the imagination, as anyone who has ever wandered by an architectural model of a proposed library or office building in a public place can attest. They encapsulate a potential energy like that of a coiled spring through their paradoxical property of being both small and huge at the same time. The space they occupy is tangible and real–a model can be bent, broken, or lost, its parts scattered and misplaced–but in their pristine forms, models have a sense of otherworldliness, converting a tiny fraction of the viewer’s everyday space into a frozen specimen.

Ko te nuinga o ana take mahi he whakatohu o te pūnaha, huarere, nō te pūnaha tikanga o te tai ao rānei. Ko ngā huahua a Booth he whakaata pakupaku mō ngā mahi rarahi ake, mēnā i whakamaheretia, i whakamanatia, mēnā he mea whakaaro noa iho. Ko ngā huahua me ngā tauira kei a rātou he mana tūturu “mō ngā mahi” hei whakarekareka i te pōhewatanga, he rite ki tētahi atu kua pahure rawa i tētahi tauira kaihoahoa whare pukapuka, whare tari ki roto i te wāhi pāpori ka tautokohia. Ka mau katoa i a rātou he pūngao pito mata he rite ki tērā o te piringa koru he puta noa i tōna āhuatanga kauteatea kia nohinohi, kia rahi anō ki te wā kotahi, Ko te tuarangi nohoanga he mea ari, he mea tūturu- he tauira ka taea te whakapiko, te pākarukaru, te whakangaro rānei, ko ana waehanga me pīwawa, me kōkēi – engari ki roto i tana āhua tikitū, kei te tauira he momo tūāhua tino mōhio, he taea te whakatupu wāhi ia rā a te kaimātakitaki ki tētahi tīpako whakamātao.

Perhaps Booth’s most recognisable works are his stacked stone constructions, such as Gateway, located in downtown Auckland at the bottom of Albert Park. A maquette for this work is present in He toka mata-te-rā, although Booth produced numerous other sculptures on this theme. Columns of boulders rise into the air, creating impossibly high cairns seemingly balancing in defiance of gravity. Supported by internal steel struts passing through holes drilled in the constituent stones, Gateway is a truly impressive piece of engineering. A collection of similar stones drilled through by Booth, both spares from previous works and in the form of Rikker III, a complete cairn work, are present in He toka mata-te-rā, highlighting the painstaking labour required to make these interventions into naturally occurring objects. Booth’s work seems to seek a rapprochement with nature, bringing his considerable sculptural and engineering skills to bear in ways that are not immediately apparent at a casual glance.

Tērā pea ko ngā mahi tino rongonui a Booth, he hanganga kōhatu whakapipi, pērā i a Gateway, e tū ana ki te wāhi pākihi o Tāmaki Mākaurau, ki te tākere o Albert Park. He tauira mō tēnei momo mahi kei roto i a He toka mata-te-rā, ahakoa kua hangatia mahatia e Booth he tāraitanga ki runga i tēnei kaupapa. He poupou toka e piki ake ana ki te rangi, e hanga ana kei tua noa te teitei, te hanga nei e whakatautika ana i te whakatuma ki te tō ā papa. Ka āwhinatia e ngā tātā rino ka puta noa i ngā pokapoka kua wirihia ki ngā kōhatu pāhekoheko. Ko Gateway he tino tapatahi pūkaha whakamiharo rawa. He kohikohinga kōhatu riterite kua wirihia puta noa e Booth, he toenga i ētahi atu mahi, ā, ki roto i te āhua o Rikker III, he mahinga poupou kōhatu whakatutuki, ka tohaina ki roto i a He toka mata-te-rā, e whakamiramira ana i te mahi mārehe me rawea hei hangahanga i ēnei takawaenga kia taonga haere tūru noa. Ngā mahi a Booth, te hanga nei ka whai i tētahi rongo ā marae ki te tai ao, ka kawe i ana tino pūkenga tāraitanga me te pūkaha maha kia hua he otinga kāhore i tino mārama i te kitenga noa.

This sense of negotiation is also evidenced in Booth’s long-standing willingness to engage with tikanga Māori and to respect the localities where his works are situated, as well as the materials from which they are made. For example, the stones used in Gateway had their tapu lifted by members of the hapu Ngāti Kura before being removed from their site and once worked on, were transported to the city where they were given as a gift to the people of Auckland; other works, such as Te Paepaetapu o Rākaihautū, were created through a process of engagement with iwi, in that case Kai Tahu Whānui kaumātua Maurice Gray and Maurice Nutira. Indeed, activism, both social and ecological, has been a feature of Booth’s practice from the very beginning. Many of his works have environmental messages or are responses to cases where the environment was under threat, such as Hei Hakari Mo Aramoana, which references the detrimental impact to the environment that the construction of the aluminium smelter at Aramoana would bring. In this exhibition, the huge, suspended plywood work Laminae’s form echoes that of a coral fungus, offering a commentary on the worldwide destruction of coral reefs caused by human activity, particularly global warming.

Ko te tairongo o te whakaritenga ka whakatohutia anō hoki ki roto i te kamakama haere roa a Booth kia whakapāpā ki te tikanga Māori me te whakaute i ngā nohoanga kei reira ana mahi, kei reira anō hoki nga rawa hangahanga. Hei tauira, ko ngā kōhatu i whakamahitia ki roto i a Gateway i hikina te tapu e ngā mema o te hapū o Ngāti Kura i mua i te nekehanga i tō rātou nohoanga, ā, i te otinga mahi, ka riua ki te taone nui i reira ka tohaina hei tākoha ki te iwi o Tāmaki Mākaurau; ētahi atu mahi, pērā i Te Paepaetapu o Rākaihautū, i hangatia mā roto i te hātepe mahinga tahi ki te iwi, ki roto i tēnei ki ngā kaumātua o Kai Tahu Whānui, ki a Maurice Grey rāua ko Maurice Nutira. Ae tonu, ko te mautohe, rāua, rāua, ā pāpori, a hauropi, he āhuatanga o ngā mahi a Booth mai i te tīmatatanga. Ko te maha o ana mahi ka kawe kōrero tai ao, he whakautu ki ētahi wā tonu ka pēpēhingia te tai ao ki te raruraru, ka pērā i Hei Hakari Mo Aramoana, ka tohutoro i te whakaaweawe kino ki te tai ao o te whakatūwheratanga o te pāhekoheko konumohe ka whakamau. Ki roto i tēnei whakaatūranga, ko te mahi papa tāpatu whakawerewere nunui a Laminae’s form ka paoro i tērā o tētahi wheterau toka pokapoka, kia tohatoha kōrero mō te tūkinotanga a ao o ngā ākau toka pokapoka kua whakatinanahia e ngā raweke tangata, inā koa ko te whakamahanatanga ao.  

As well as maquettes for completed works, He toka mata-te-rā also contains plans for works that never reached fruition, specifically the immensely ambitious Subterranean Living Sculpture, a proposed sculptural environment or museum experience situated in a network of tunnels beneath Albert Park in Auckland City, which would serve as a celebration of lower plants such as mosses,  algae and ferns as well as fungi and lichen, crucial ecosystemic building blocks increasingly threatened by human encroachment and environmental damage. Rendered in pastel by David Barker, Booth’s concepts are intriguing, fantastical, and somewhat eerie, with proposed rooms labelled “Micro-Algae Chamber,” “Kinetic Fungi Tower” and “Cathedral.” This hypothetical darkened underground space exists only in potential, but through these images viewers can perhaps catch a waft of cold air from these oddly inviting subterranean spaces. Here, Booth extends an invitation to trace the halls of an otherworldly, beautiful labyrinth, spreading in imagined silence beneath the feet of hurrying businesspeople and downtown shoppers.

Atu i te tauira mō ngā whakaotinga mahi, kei roto anō i a He toka mata-te-rā ētahi whakaritenga mō ētahi mahi horekau anō kia hua mai te whakaotinga, koia rā ko te tino whakaeaeatanga ko Subterranean Living Sculpture, he taiao tāraitanga tūtohu he wheako whare taonga ka noho ki roto tūhonohonotanga anaroa ki raro i a Albert Park ki te taone nui o Tāmaki Mākaurau, ka tohatoha hei whakanuinga mō ngā rau nohinohi pērā i ngā kohukohu, i nga pūkohu wai, i ngā para, anō hoki ko ngā hekaheka, me ngā hawa, ngā kīnaki whakatupu matua o te pūnaha hauropi e tupu kaha nei te pēpēhi i te auraratanga tangata me te tūkinonga tai ao. Ka rehutia ki te piakano e David Barker, ko ngā arotau a Booth he mea whakangārahu, anō te pai, ā, he tū ā whakahaehae me ngā rūma kua tūtohutia ngā ingoa, “Micro-Algae Chamber,” “Kinetic Fungi Tower” me “Cathedral.” Ko tēnei pōhewa, ko tēnei wāhi ki raro whenua, ko tōna tauoranga kei te pito mata noa iho, engari mā roto i ēnei tirohanga, tērā pea, ka mau i te kaimātakitaki he kōrewarewa hau makariri mai i ēnei wāhi ki raro whenua he mea pōwhiri tuatahi. Ki konei, ka tukuna atu te pōwhiri a Booth kia whakataki i ngā hōro o tētahi mariko, pōwhiwhi ataahua, ka tupu toha ki roto i te whakamūmū pōhewa ki raro i ngā waewae whakahorohoro a te hunga pākihi me ngā kirihoko ki wāhanga pākihi o te taone nui.