Pauline Rhodes has been working at the forefront of experimental art since her graduation from Canterbury University’s Ilam School of Fine Arts in 1974. The first ever recipient of the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation Annual Award, she is one of New Zealand’s senior environmental sculptors. Her largely site-specific installations examine the perceptual, experimental, ecological and organic. They challenge conventional representations of the New Zealand landscape and traditional sculptural practice. This is manifest in her ongoing Intensum/Extensum (Indoor/Outdoor) is a series of parallel projects predominantly created in Rhodes’ local area of Banks Peninsula. Conceptual, time-based pieces, they explore the interaction of materials and the environment and investigate the vulnerability and transient nature of materials and the temporality of ‘the moment.’
Three Boats Flowing is built around three essential boat shapes that look like skeletal frames of canoes. This work grows into three open forms connected by extending, flowing rope-like elements. The boats are fabricated in stainless steel tube, the connecting elements, loosely tangled within, are of stainless steel flexible hose. The piece is a continuation of the artist’s explorations into binary oppositions. The looping, twisting flexlock hose creates configurations that echo the surrounding land and water forms. Rhodes is calling into question the boundaries between the natural and the manufactured; while the curves and folds of the arrangements are distinctly organic, their material is synthetic. Her use of a readymade medium, available ‘off the peg’, challenges the concept of sculpture as ‘crafted’ and recalls technologies and networks of human infrastructure.
Rhodes aims not to impose change upon the environment, but rather to reflect movement through it. Thus the sculptures are placed within their surroundings without intruding upon them, forming part of ‘an ongoing process of discovery within the environment.’* The ease with which the sculptures can be repositioned encourages an element of chance and links them with Rhodes’ interest in ‘…ideas of flexibility, variability and adaptability in a continuum of temporary placements within the outdoor environment.’*
Serena Bentley & Dr Robin Woodward
*Artist’s statement Brick Bay 2006