Promise Boat (2004)

promise boat by louise purvis
promise boat by louise purvis

In late 1998 a group deeply committed to the vital role that sculpture can play in the visual culture of a city founded the Outdoor Sculpture 2001 Incorporated Society. The aim was to promote sculpture in Auckland, and they planned to use the new millennium as an event to trigger the project and assist them to find support (Elizabeth Rankin). Images of boats are powerful signifiers for island nations, especially for Aotearoa New Zealand, where the land was discovered and rediscovered by many different navigators. The Auckland War Memorial Museum houses fine examples of old Polynesian canoes which recall the earliest journeys. Louise Purvis' sculpture, on a sloping site in the lower Domain where nearby waters once lapped the shoreline of the Waitemata harbour, reminds us of them too. It takes the form of an archetypal vessel, a metaphor of numberless voyages. Poised on its side on a hemispherical basalt base, Promise Boat is no ordinary craft. It suggests many interpretations, particularly because the form is wrapped, implying hidden potential and lending it a quality of mystery. The work evokes the enfolding of a precious object or the bandaging of something fragile: it will resist the elements, just as vessels and voyagers survived the seas. For the work is carved in marble, chosen by sculptors for its fine-grained durability since the time of ancient Greece, and used for the Domain's winter Garden sculptures. But, avoiding the polished whiteness favoured by neo-classical artists, Purvis has chosen Bardilglio marble with a soft grey tone, complementing the subtly scored and stippled surfaces she has created (Elizabeth Rankin).