The sculpture exhibition by Jim Wheeler at Artis Gallery is explicitly titled Nature as Metaphor. The artist, renowned as a medallist, is here working mostly in bronze although cast-iron and stainless steel are also used. The works all have plant forms and the metaphorical element is the relationship between human activity and the natural world.
This is exemplified in a work that stands at the door. It is a 2m high version of the peculiar leaf of the lancewood standing tall, almost like a human spine. It has a green patina except for the centre where the principal vein is polished bronze and falls the length of the piece like a flow of water. The title is Standing Idol. The natural form is to be honoured like a forest god.
Most of the work inside the gallery is of branches of native trees based on the artist’s response to our native bush. The range is wide. A cast-iron work, Kauri Branch – Drought, has a burned, rust colour with heavy monumental leaves and a seed cone that is a hope for re-birth.
In contrast to the weight of this work is Autumn Wreath, a delicate bronze circlet of the seeds of the five-finger plant woven into an intriguing dance. Most of the sculptures are sprightly wall works. One is substantially over size. The huge branches of APEX – Pacific Kauri reach out like giant antlers.
On the floor are versions of a concept the artist has made his own. He uses old spades and garden forks or their handles and adorns them with plants in bronze. Plants and vines spring forth in a more homely and native version of the medieval legend of polished wood growing miraculous leaves, so the reference is redemption and renewal. It all makes for a very attractive show embodying invention, skill, observation and thought.
Saturday 22 August