Pacific Flotsam

Behind the scenes

I was delighted to be asked by Judith Blackall, curator at Sydney's National Art School Gallery to speak at the opening of their new Bill Culbert exhibition earlier this month. We had lent our floor sculpture Pacific Flotsam and it features here on the poster. 


Pacific Flotsam was created for a specific exhibition at Brisbane's Institute of Modern Art in 2007; shown in New Plymouth's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery; and then in our 2009-10 collections exhibition Brought to Light. Wherever it is, this work holds the space with absolute authority; a point proved once more by its current placement in a large upstairs room of this gallery.

Bill Culbert combines light and other things with economy and precision, producing poetic works of art which invite us to re-evaluate the familiar. Despite the sometimes cheerful air of improvisation in his work, nothing is gratuitous. In this case, the 240 discarded objects and 78 fluorescent tubes linked by electrical cord are carefully ordered by the artist. We have a map for its installation, as well as the freedom (lovingly taken by Sean Duxfield and Scott Jackson, who installed the work in Sydney) to adjust for the proportion of different settings.

For us at Christchurch Art Gallery, it's a prized item which we're delighted to share – perhaps especially while our gallery remains closed following the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.

I was aware of the Culbert show being part of Sydney Festival 2015, a summer event across a number of the city's venues, but it also makes a contribution to the 2015 Year of Light, the subject chosen by United Nations to raise global awareness of light-based technologies and their potential. This connection (and with the James Turrell exhibition at NGA, Canberra, and Light Show at Auckland Art Gallery, but travelling to MCA Sydney) is noted in the following review on Arts Hub