Work: A Stick of First Rate Quality
Construction: Manila rope and Kauri
Climbing the Brick Bay trail through the tall kauri, visitors suddenly find themselves amongst shrouds and ratlines of manila rope which tail into coils underfoot. These signal Fiona Garlick’s transformation of a living kauri into the mast of an eighteenth century sailing ship. Along with the installation of ship’s rigging in A Stick of First Rate Quality there is a semi circular wooden platform, a crow’s nest perched high up on the mast-like trunk of the tree, just below the first branches. The crow’s nest is the stuff of pirate ships and imagination rather than an exact replica of an original. Similarly, sound plays an important part in an imaginative reading of the work, often announcing the presence of the installation before the viewer actually sees it. The creaking of ropes, a ship’s bell and the sound of the wind suggest the sense of being at sea on the deck of a ship.
While the rigged ‘mast’ alludes to the young kauri rickers cut before their time, the crow’s nest, constructed of recycled kauri floorboards, points to the subsequent felling of the mature kauri giants for timber. Being a look out point it is also a metaphor for the ‘view’ of the newcomer who saw not trees but only an economic resource. A Stick of First Rate Quality pays homage to the first kauri felled by Europeans. The young kauri, known as ‘rickers’, were cut down for replacement spars and masts of the early explorer ships. These trees were the first pickings in what was to become, over a period of one hundred years, a mass destruction of New Zealand’s native forests. All this was done in the name of ‘progress’ – and profit.