Work: Sail Away
Construction: Polychromed Fibreglass
Barry Lett is a well-known name in the history of art in New Zealand. He has exhibited paintings and sculpture for over 25 years and is represented in collections throughout Australasia. His Brick Bay sculpture is a variation on the theme of departure. It develops out of the small bronze work he made as a memorial to painter Pat Hanly in 2005. That work depicted a solitary figure in a boat with a personal flag of identity ‘pinned to the mast’; a symbolic Pat Hanly sailing away.
The sculptor recalls
‘I have many memories of sailing with Pat Hanly in his small trailer-sailor boat. We would launch from Okahu Bay and sail in the Auckland Harbour or venture out into the gulf visiting the far side of Rangitoto or even further. Once we sailed from Mahurangi past Tiritiri Matangi back to Auckland. The sea became rough and the trip proved hair-raising. On other occasions things happened that were more hilarious than scary, such as the time the rudder fell off and floated away. Luckily an incoming tide and favourable winds helped us ashore. Once we were becalmed in the middle of the shipping lane with a huge container ship bearing down on us, its horn blaring. We desperately managed to paddle out of the way but were almost capsized by the ship’s wake as it steamed past. And none of these adventures was made less interesting by the fact that Pat Hanly could not swim!’*
More generically Sail Away is a variation on the ‘man alone’ theme that recurs in New Zealand literature. Barry Lett first encountered the idea of a solo sailor in a Henry Miller story in which the sailor refuses to accept international seafaring law or carry a passport. He claimed he did not belong to any nation and was an individual in the ‘family of man’. Likewise, accounts by sculptor Jim Allen of his solo sailing adventure to Australia made a lasting impression on Barry Lett. All these narratives inform Sail Away.