Tag Archives: systems thinking

Wild Dunedin community land art sculpture

April 25, 2022

To celebrate Earth Day and to open the NZ Festival of Nature Philippa and I worked with Wild Dunedin community volunteers to make a land art sculpture on St Kilda Beach using natural materials found at the site that returned to the sea by the incoming tide.

We marked out the shape of a 25 metre circle on the sand below the high tide line and cordoned it off with ropes. Into this we all dragged and arranged the materials without making footprints on the beach around it, by walking in the wet sand as the tide receded.

The day was cold, windy and intermittently stormy but everyone put their heart and soul into collecting mostly kelp and driftwood. Over three hours of very hard work we completed the installation with some people creating intricate personal art works within the circle.

The whole event was livestreamed with cutaways to interviews, and videos about our art practice. A time lapse and aerial drone footage shot by Graham McArthur document the inspiring outcome, which everyone agreed was a big success.


On Saturday at the Otago Museum Philippa and I gave video presentation of our art practice including the Fine Line project and book and the community beach sculpture.

We thank all the Wild Dunedin organisers, volunteers, sponsors and supporters for their contributions to the event










In the Balance

January 19, 2013



I have just completed and delivered a new permanent sculpture to Art Bay Gallery in Queenstown. It follows the theme I began to explore in “Cyclic Flow” for Sculpture in Central Otago exhibition in 2011. (see below)

This corten steel sculpture entitled “In the Balance” also refers to cyclical systems.

Three corten steel rings sit in space one above the other at different angles. They appear to be unsupported but they are joined to each other at a single point giving the impression that they are frozen in time like a multi exposure photograph of a single spinning coin.

The improbability of its form is intended to unsettle and disturb, raising the question: How can this be?

The idea is based upon nature’s fundamental operating principle of interdependent systems in dynamic balance, where breaking the relationships between the systems collapses the whole.

I have made the work in three sizes, from 2 metres to half a metre in height. These works and “Cyclic Flow” are all available for sale by contacting me.

In the Balance –  Video of the sculpture coming to life when nudged


Cyclic Flow, at Rippon Vineyard  2011







Back home from the Watershed.

October 5, 2012

It snowed heavily for the last two days when we were up at the Chalet on Albert Burn Saddle. The evening before we were due to be picked up by Charlie Ewing in his helicopter I realised that the new snow was an opportunity to make one last sculpture. Because the fresh snow was very sticky and in the blizzard anything I made was going to freeze overnight I chanced building a large difficult form that would otherwise have collapsed. Philippa also suggested I  utilise one of the three sculptures in an earlier work that had frozen into ice and could support my new construction of interlinked circles that would become “Interdependence”.

A few hours of digging and applying the new soft snow and I had the basis of three rings interconnected like chain links. Their final shaping took place as it became darker and colder after sunset.

The storm abated during the night and a full moon traversed the sky towards Mount Aspiring. At dawn the scene was perfect for photography which I completed as the helicopter arrived to whisk us back to the green of the lowlands and our home in Wanaka where we began to return to our regular life after an extremely memorable and inspiring ten days immersed in an alpine wilderness.


Huge thanks to Martyn and Louise Myer, the staff of Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet, Chef James, Guide Laetitia and helicopter pilots James and Charlie.

We look forward to returning when the snow has gone for a different experience making further works for The Watershed Project.


Making sense of the world

May 13, 2012

I was pleased to be invited recently to write for a new media company that is creating a multimedia platform for sharing exceptional ideas, insights, and analysis with the global community. Fair Observer aims to enable their audience to make sense of the world by focusing on issues, events and trends of global significance, and integrating a plurality of perspectives: “providing a 360° view of the world”. They intend to be “the improved 21st century version of The Economist – with exceptional analysis sourced from a network of thought leaders in diverse disciplines from across the globe”.
Fair Observer’s Arts and Culture Desk asked for my perspective on Land Art and Environmental Art accompanied  examples of my work.
Read my full article and enjoy Fair Observer:



Life is rich: experiences over the last few weeks

February 7, 2011


Martin on the summit

I had been wanting to climb Mt Avalanche in Mt Aspiring National Park ever since I first wandered up the beautiful Matukituki valley thirty five years ago on arrival in New Zealand from UK.
Its symmetrical shape and triple peaks above Avalanche Glacier crown the junction of the East and West Matukituki valleys and are visible from parts of Wanaka where we now live.
An invitation from climbing friends was too good to pass up and we were away the next day. The long plod up the valley to Pearl Flat and a steep climb through beech forest and tussock took us to French Ridge hut in about seven hours.
We had been experiencing strange low cloud effects for a week but hoped the next day would be clear. It wasn’t. Leaving the hut at 4.30 am  we made good progress up onto the Quarter Deck in heavy cloud.  At dawn a pinkish cast entered the scene and suddenly there was visibility.  Stretching above us was our glacier route to the Bonar glacier and above and to the right our objective, the West Ridge of Avalanche, dark and free of snow. Below us a sea of cloud filled the valley.
After a couple of hours’ careful route finding through crevassed ice, we broke out onto the Bonar glacier to a perfect clear view of Mt Aspiring’s south face and the SW ridge on which two years before I had suffered a terrible experience when my friend John fell to his death. I was glad to return but it was with great sadness that I reflected on that day and the loss of a great friend.

Crossing the glacier we made good progress on firm snow up to the foot of the rock slabs that run up to the high peak of Avalanche. Leaving our ice gear at the schrund we climbed the rough weathered rocks past huge exfoliating flakes following deep cracks.
The climbing was easy but often loose with big drops to the glaciers on all sides. No room for mistakes here.
The summit consists of spectacular broken rocks balanced above huge drops towards the Kitchener cirque  with its icy blue lake far below and still further down the East Matukituki river winding its way towards Wanaka. The two lower peaks stood out in front of us with sharp jagged ridges bristling with gendarmes connecting the summits but barring access.
Mt Aspiring shone majestically across the Bonar glacier, its summit still hundreds of metres above us.
Warm conditions allowed us a rest and some lunch on top before abseiling back to the schrund and a hot plod across the glacier in full sun before following our footsteps carefully across snow bridges over crevasses to the safety of French Ridge below and the comfort of the hut, a meal and a sunset to remember.


Philippa & River Cycle.

The next day after a long and tiring decent to Wanaka a film crew arrived for two days shooting towards a year long documentary featuring our sculpture work. It looked like rain so Philippa and I made a hurried plan to make a sculpture on the shingle river banks of the Matukituki River near the West Wanaka estuary into the lake.

The film crew were surprised to find that we where going to make a sculpture simply using river water on the dry river bank.
After carefully marking out its position using a stick tied to a string we began to fetch water in buckets and pour it onto the gravel beach. It proved to work well and took less time than we imagined to draw a dark grey circle twenty four metres across.
When viewed from above it had the shape and presence I had anticipated and and I photographed it in overcast light giving plenty of detail in the sculpture as well as the mountain landscape beyond. The wet circle gradually begun to dry out so the crew filmed with time lapse to show it disappearing.

The next day rain was forecast to arrive from the west so we devised a sculpture concept that was about rain.
Gathering dry driftwood from the lake edge we made a work on a shingle beach which would change colour when it became wet. Sure enough right on time the sky darkened and big drops of rain began to spatter the driftwood.
Having filmed and photographed it dry we continued to capture the changing conditions and their effects on the sculpture while protecting the cameras. When fully wet some of the wood took on dark rich colours that increased its contrast with the beach. The flat light gave an evenness to the range of tones so that the camera could capture them well.
The film crew returned to the city but next day was very sunny so Philippa and I revisited the sculpture and photographed it in bright sun and also at sunset with the snow covered mountains visible in the background.


Cyclic Flow.

The next few days where spent making final preparations for a sculpture exhibition for which I had to install a steel work 2m x 2m titled Cyclic Flow. The site is in the park like setting of Rippon Vineyard  overlooking Lake Wanaka.
Sculpture in Central Otago is a biennial show of selected sculpture works installed along a 1.5 k walk through one of the most scenic vineyards in the world. The installation went without a hitch and the exhibition opened with a gala dinner in the new Rippon event centre positioned on a hill above the vineyard – a spectacular venue built with rammed earth walls and recycled timbers.
Today I returned there to give an artist talk and enjoy the sculptures of the 35 artists involved along with live music.
The sculptures remain on show for three months.

Next week I go to sign up for my pension. Retirement however, is not on the agenda.

Interconnected systems

November 11, 2010

I am working on new sculptures both in the landscape and in the studio about ideas concerning intersecting and interconnected systems. This interests me because a strong point at which to influence change is where systems connect.

While camping with Philippa this week on the bank of the Arawhata River estuary on the West Coast, I was struck by the relationship of the rain forest to the constantly changing river as it rises and falls according to the rainfall in the mountains. I believe recognising the effects of the design of human systems on interconnected natural systems is the starting point for actions for change.

Below is the finished sculpture titled “Intersecting Raupo Sticks”. Made with raupo stems tied with strips of flax fiber.