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Reuben Paterson: The Golden Bearing 30 October 2021 – 30 January 2022

Reuben Paterson The Golden Bearing 2014. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Photo: Bryan James

Share a moment of magic and possibility under glittering golden leaves courtesy of Aotearoa New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson, who is helping install his work The Golden Bearing at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū remotely from his Auckland home under Level 3 restrictions.

The Golden Bearing opens at Christchurch Art Gallery on Saturday 30 October, and takes the form of a golden tree of no particular species – a deliberately universal work that will mean something a little different to each person who visits.

Felicity Milburn, Lead Curator at the Gallery, says The Golden Bearing sits somewhere between fantasy and hyperrealism.

“It’s a golden tree growing indoors, so it is obviously artificial, but the artist’s careful inclusion of small details makes it unexpectedly convincing, from the knobbly undulations of the roots and trunk to the delicate leaves, which are light enough to move slightly in a breeze,” Ms Milburn says.

The Golden Bearing stands 4.5 metres high and was created by hand using more than 200 kilograms of fibreglass, gold paint and glitter. Based in Auckland, Paterson is supervising the installation of The Golden Bearing remotely via phone, email and video calls – a novel approach for the Gallery, but an obvious solution in a world living with COVID-19.

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First created in 2013, discussions about bringing the work to Christchurch began shortly after the March 15 2019 terror attacks, with Paterson wanting to offer “a little piece of joy” to the city.

“On a fundamental level, trees provide shelter, and we wanted to create a welcoming, family-friendly space where our visitors can experience something a bit magical, and where children can enjoy storytelling sessions under its leaves, or even post a picture to Instagram at #glittertree,” Ms Milburn says.

“The use of glitter will conjure up showbiz for some, but it’s also an effect found throughout nature – in the sparkle of wet sand, or the glistening frost on winter grass. That tension between what’s natural and what’s constructed is something Reuben has often worked with, not least because it offers a way to think about colonisation, and how ideas and belief systems from other places were imposed on the natural environment,” Ms Milburn says.

“In Aotearoa, trees contribute to our sense of identity in many different ways. In Te Ao Māori, they are connectors between human and spiritual worlds, with their roots grounding them in the earth as they reach for the sky. In Māori cosmology, it was Tāne, the forest god, who pushed apart his earth mother Papatūānuku and sky father Ranginui to create Te Ao Mārama – room and light for people. Paterson’s work plays in the space between all these ideas; linking nature and invention, reality and illusion, the past and possibility.”

Under-the-tree storytelling sessions and other events will take place over the duration of the exhibition. Keep an eye on for details.

Artist background

Reuben Paterson (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi, Scottish) was born in Tāmakai Makaurau / Auckland in 1973. He is best known for working with glitter, which he uses to create not only spellbinding surfaces, but to echo the dynamic movement of light in nature. Paterson’s paintings, sculptures and time-based works often incorporate Māori concepts and motifs, and references to the natural world.

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