Monthly Archives: September 2012

Day 9-10: Reflections on The Watershed

September 30, 2012

Gale force winds have been rocking the chalet for two nights and snow began to fall in earnest yesterday morning. Warm and protected from the raging blizzard we have spent two days catching up on practical matters: downloading photographs and recording our thoughts on this incredible stay up here experiencing this magical place for such an extended period.

The weather is everything here. From freezing stormy nights to burning hot sunny days and now blinding snow and wind. Last night the metal taps on the water tanks out on the deck froze and we are melting snow as our water supply. We also had to dig our way out to the toilet through thick drifts of fresh snow.

It is precipitation that continually creates and changes this landscape. We have been able to experience the transformation caused by the water cycle at close hand. We are literally working with water affected by changes in temperature to become ice, snow and mist to make art that speaks of the human relationship to water.

I feel that this profound experience, totally focused with Philippa on this project together brings out the best in us. It has lifted my work to a different place – a place even more attuned to the environment around us. Hopefully this comes through in the finished works that will eventually become part of The Watershed exhibition.

We have become totally at home here at Whare Kea Chalet. It is so well designed for the alpine conditions and with its spectacular views of Rob Roy Peak, Mt Aspiring, Mt Avalanche and Mt Fastness, it will be hard to leave. But it is good to know we will be back when the snow has gone to experience summer conditions and make very different works in the landscape.

This may be our last blog. The weather is delaying – by one day, at this stage – our departure but it will also obliterate all trace of our having been here which seems appropriate. We will take our pictures and memories back to Wanaka so that we can always return.








Watershed Project Day 6 to 8

September 28, 2012

After two days of storm the skies cleared for a perfect dawn with 10cm of soft powder snow covering everything. We made new tracks to a site to the north and began work on a three-part sculpture.

With strong sun and no wind it was too warm and the first one collapsed in a heap while we were building the second one. We developed a strategy in the hope of preventing further collapses: by building all three at once and keeping snow piled up on their north, sunny sides they stayed standing through the heat of the day.

About 5pm it became cool enough to begin shaping though it was with the aid of a headtorch it was finally finished.

A freezing clear night brought another sensational sunrise on Mt Aspiring. With the three sculptures lit against the shadows of the Matukituki valley and the sun highlighting the tracks of a hare in the foreground the image was finally completed as planned.

With the morning snow hard underfoot we cramponed out to a partly frozen waterfall where we built a sculpture overlooking this extraordinary spectacle.

Keas circled above us calling and diving and the sun made the work arduous.  The walk back was heavy going as we sank into the softened snow at every step. The beauty of this awe inspiring place more than makes up for any hardships.

After a delicious lunch and some rest we began planning how to create ice to work with. Since there was none naturally occurring we made a mould by digging a shallow pit in the snow and lining it with a tarpaulin. We poured water into it and left it to freeze overnight.

Day 8

At 5.30am after a cold clear moonlit night surface ice had formed but not quite thick enough to lift in one piece. It broke as we tried to get it out, so we quickly developed another concept using a shard of the ice to great effect in front of the sunrise on the glorious mountain scene.

With the wind picking up and the skies grey I finalised a work titled Cold Facts on Bottled Water and photographed it before breakfast.










Days 4 & 5: Storm bound

September 26, 2012

With a big low pressure system right over the Southern Alps we have been confined to the comfortable Whare Kea Chalet at 1750m except for the occasional foray out into snowstorms and whiteouts to make quick works and take photographs that show the changing conditions.



In my research for The Watershed Project I have learned about the urgent current research now taking place that attempts to achieve a scaleable system for creating a truly sustainable energy system by splitting the water molecule using energy from the sun. Producing hydrogen from H2O using a photocatalyst would produce no carbon emissions. Known as artificial photosynthesis this renewable energy could become a watershed in preventing catastrophic climate change.

Today I have begun exploring ways to make works specifically about this using water and snow.


Philippa and I also trudged off this morning across the fresh snow leaving footprints to make another work to photograph when the sun comes out – assuming more snow doesn’t obliterate it before then, like the footprints we see from wild four legged animals around the chalet – perhaps chamois or thar.


Snow is banked up at the huge windows and we are surrounded on all sides by views of falling snow, while Philippa paints and we enjoy the comforts and great food provided by Whare Kea Lodge – bravo chef James.



Day 3 already on the Artists’ Alpine Retreat

September 24, 2012

Day 1  Artists Retreat

The weather up here at Whare Kea’s Chalet is keeping us inside for today. We have seen perfect conditions since our arrival on the 22nd – sunny and still – and we have achieved several things since settling in. Our first job was to dig out an access to the chalet from the heavy drifts of snow all around. Next was to store the mountain of gourmet food supplied by Whare Kea’s Chef James. Some foods can be kept in the chilly bin on the south side of the building, in effect the vegetable chiller.

With the snow in every direction absolutely pristine we were compelled to begin right away to make a sculpture to the north west of the chalet, carefully skirting below the sightline to keep footsteps out of the camera angle. We worked hard in the sun with snow shovels but after several hours the sun weakened the structure and it collapsed. It took less time to reconstruct and Martin worked on till dark using a headtorch and the dropping temperature to finish the finer work on the form for photographing in the morning.

Above: the beginnings of the first work in progress. It’s to be the first part of a three part concept.

The physical work primed our appetites for the first of Chef James’s preprepared vacuum packed meals: Seared Aoraki Salmon with chick pea ragout. Coconut panacotta with passionfruit sauce was our dessert.

With a warm bed to go to and 9 more days to focus on creative work it was a good start to the project.


Day 2 Artists retreat

The light pours into the building in the morning and its impossible to linger inside in such conditions. Martin carved the frozen sculpture into its final form and photographed it against a dramatic dark sky over Mt Aspiring.

We prepared to climb up the ridge to the north where Guide Laetitia had been the day before. We had seen her figure on the skyline: what a site for a sculpture. Laetitia instructed us on the use of the transceivers she supplied us with and supervised our preparations.

We climbed with crampons and ice axes to the highest point on the ridge visible from the chalet.

We all worked together to build a substantial sculpture that we discovered later could be seen from way below in the chalet.

Another good days’ work meant we could relax a little, play some music, linger over another wonderful meal and listen to Laetitia’s tales of her adventurous life. There was time in the afternoon also to reflect on being in such a remarkable place with free time and both she and Philippa began to draw and paint, and Martin to sketch out some ideas for work.

Artist Retreat Day 3

With continuing good weather we got an earlier start to climb Dragonfly Peak behind the chalet. This steep north facing slope would be soft and unsafe in afternoon conditions for us to be on and in fact was too steep for Philippa in spite of Laetitia’s short roping, so she returned to “safer ground”.

Martin and Laetitia climbed up to the top and back with the wind rising quickly and thick cloud amassing.

It was indeed very slushy for their fast descent without crampons.

With James arriving by helicopter in increasingly poor conditions in the mid afternoon to resurrect the webcam and connect us to the internet Laetitia made a judgement call to fly back to Wanaka instead of returning on foot down to the East Matukituki the next day as planned.

Suddenly in the space of half an hour we were connected to the outside world by a router but on the other hand completely on our own. The range of communications – a radio telephone, handheld personal radio telephones, the satellite phone and the internet wi fi and Farmside telephone – would see that (provided we are diligent at keeping them all charged up) we are isolated only in some ways. Add to the list of technology a personal locator beacon and of course the transceivers.






Alpine art adventure begins

September 21, 2012

Tomorrow we fly by helicopter from Wanaka up to Whare Kea Chalet to begin a ten day artist residency.  At 1700 metres there will be plenty of snow and we will begin by digging out the door.

With Laetitia as our guide for the first few days we are looking forward to exploring the alpine terrain under winter conditions and beginning to make art works for the Watershed Project.

With luxury food prepared and packed by Chef James from Whare Kea Lodge and the comfort of the Chalet, we will be enjoying a standard of luxury accommodation rare to us in an alpine wilderness environment.

Regular updates will be posted here throughout the project.

The Watershed Project

September 13, 2012

In a week’s time Philippa and I embark on a major project that has been inspired by an invitation from Martyn and Louise Myer, proprietors of Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet Wanaka, to be the inaugural participants in an inspirational artists’ retreat programme: the Kenneth Myer Artist’s/Writer’s Alpine Retreat.

We will spend two periods of ten days based at Whare Kea Chalet at 1700m on Albert Burn Saddle directly  opposite Mount Aspiring. I have researched and developed a concept based on the watershed at Albert Burn Saddle from which two river systems issue, the Albert Burn and the East Matukituki. With all the recent new snow we will no doubt have an exciting time making art in this extreme wilderness.

Because the chalet has solar power and internet connectivity we will be able to post regular updates here as our work progresses.

We look forward to any comments too.

Transforming finance based on life’s principles

September 12, 2012

The need to redesign all human systems to be compatible with how nature works is my philosophy.

That is why this statement resonates with me:


June 27, 2012  © 2012

The STATEMENT ON TRANSFORMING FINANCE BASED ON LIFE’S PRINCIPLES begins with the biological truth that the human species is interdependent with all other life forms on Planet Earth.  Therefore, human societies, cultures, values and belief systems that are informed by and modeled on the following Life’s Principles, which are strategies universal to all organisms, should provide the basis for all production and exchange of goods, community structures and services.  This includes the design of monetary systems, investments, banking, financing,  bartering, reciprocal exchange, payments, crowdfunding, compensation and unpaid gifting, sharing, cooperatives, reproduction of future, generations, provision of public goods, infrastructure, collective health, education and life-supporting services.

Link to full statement and signatories


All visitors welcome

September 12, 2012

Last summer we made a Stacked Stone Sphere on Breast Hill high above Wanaka. It was made to withstand the elements long enough for us to return in winter conditions to film and photograph it for the exhibition Fragile Canvas.

In the past year several of our mountaineering friends have visited the sculpture and reported on its slow transformation. Jo Haines was there when a New Zealand Falcon/ kārearea landed on it and she captured this image

Clearly the sphere is beginning to tilt and become misshapen. New rocks have been contributed too by visitors and other rocks have fallen away – all part of the sculpture’s transition back to the mountainside.

Long live kārearea, the fastest flying bird in New Zealand.