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Creatively Christchurch

Patrick Barry – Sculptor

How would you describe what you do?

I am a Sculptor, Carver, Designer working on publicly tendered and private commissions developing ideas for exhibition while gaining career recognition through awards, peer critique.

What are you working on now – or what was your most recent project?

I recently developed designed a number of sculptures both figurative and abstract with varying themes, having worked on a commission bases for almost two decades I have recently focused on my own practice to bring together a range of sculptures for exhibition in New Zealand. I have been working on a range of wave sculptures, energy conduits; displaced water as a conduit for energy that were exhibited in Chambers Gallery.

What project have you been involved with that is the most memorable for you?

I would think living here in Christchurch the most memorable project would be being invited to carve reinstate the Sign of the Kiwi for Dyer’s Pass by Christchurch City Council having the opportunity to work on a part of the city’s history caring for its future. There are a number of other  projects that I’ve undertaken since in Canterbury and New Zealand from a 5 meter high Pagoda Sculpture in a private Japanese garden in Ashburton, being commissioned to create a life size study of champion whippets for a Christchurch breeder to a 400kg Giant Pear sculpture to Sculpted Memorials for lost relatives, but the Sign of the Kiwi,  would be stand out carving  – having immigrated from Ireland, the first commission both publicly and privately I receive is to carve a Kiwi, I did see the irony in this at the time. I was quite proud of my stage of my career to be trusted with such an iconic part of Christchurch history. Christchurch City Council were very professional to work with made the commissioning process a pleasure.

What is essential for creative person to have in their life?


How has your time in Ōtautahi informed your work, or inspired you?

I had primarily trained as a stone Carver, figurative sculptor,  before I came to New Zealand so the type of work I was commissioned to do, material timeline and expectations were quite different.

Woodcarving would be the first instance: Totara wood, the beauty of that for the Sign of the Kiwi carving. Oamaru stone learning to work with it and it’s unique geology.  Using clay to develop casting techniques for editions of sculptures including bronze and patination technique.   I wanted to develop different styles of my practice and living here and the different methods of creating work, ideas that would never have taken place have I not moved here so I’m very grateful for that.

Living here has taught me to look after myself physically because it’s a long game having a career as a sculptor. I think the landscape is quite inspirational here in Christchurch particularly from the mountains to the sea, the people, Christchurch itself with its unique geology it’s been quite interesting living here I have to say.

Ōtautahi is about the same population as Cork City in Ireland where I grew up and it has a major port  has similar dynamics so its been quite familiar and a good fit that’s why we chose it, go with your gut it’s the best friend you’ll ever have.

What’s the best piece of advice you received about creativity?

If you feel different then you better get real, real good at something if you’re attracted to something painting, sculpture, music, writing it’s in you already it just depends on how deep the cut goes how far you take it, don’t worry about how you do it figure it out when you get there. Don’t be afraid to refuse work don’t forget to have fun.

What’s the biggest misconception about the creative work that you do?

That it is not accessible, that sculpture is something that is only in a museum when in fact people have sculpture already in their gardens or the collections of our office, family homes, sculpture it’s for everybody it’s a 3D physical piece of art. The quality of the sculpture is what creates its uniqueness the fine art quality, collectability, limited range the desirability.

Commissioning a piece of sculpture is one of the oldest trades in the world asking someone to create something by hand making a physical manifestation of a person’s thought process into a 3D art form, something they want to say or express that they cannot buy off the shelf that is not seen anywhere that is uniquely their expression.

Commissioning a piece of sculpture is a very unique process, is a journey from an idea heartfelt desire to discussing this,  open the concept to a physical fruition it is possible to do this and not just buy something off the shelf you can actually get someone to make you something and it’s affordable. The experience is unique it’s a great story to have how the Commission developed the relationship with the sculptor and how that progressed to finished installation installed idea in your garden area, your house or your office or business branding.

What Christchurch artists or artwork do admire?

Llew Summers for his tenacity, generosity of spirit and business sense.

I met him on my 5th day in New Zealand a mutual acquaintance introduced us and there I was having a coffee with Llew in the house he built. I enjoyed his passion and unquestioning vision, he built his life as an artist and he was an artist the artist was Llew. The generosity of his nature it was about the sculpture idea he didn’t mind sharing his mutual love of a technique, method.

We would wax lyrical about a piece of stone native timber to New Zealand of Italian, English or Irish raw material either in his studio or on his balcony overlooking Moncks Bay. He took me under his wing regarding casting molding techniques, composite material, bronze, fiberglass understanding why things were done a certain way how to create a copy of an original.

At the time as it is with such things I didn’t have vision regarding the opportunity of such a process as my practice was all original one off sculptures but I’m ever grateful now as time has passed to Llew for sharing and giving me his time. What he shared with me has blossomed and given fruit in my life.

What art work or performance has taken your breath away?

When I was 20 I lived in France for a year or so volunteering for a homeless community and working in vine yards, I spent two months in Paris what an adventure traveling around France coming to live in the south of France by Rochefort La Rochelle. While in Paris every weekend I would immerse my mind getting the metro from one part of the city to the next going from The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, The Centre Pompidou, Musee National Rodin, Petit Palais, Musee du Quai Branly being exposed to art from Africa, Oceania, Asia, European, The Americas, contemporary indigenous art a laboratory of creativity from all around the world.

Brancusi sculpture, paintings by Cezanne, Rodin’s iconoclastic monumental feats all were indelibly impressed on my fertile mind.

“Caravaggio’s”   beheading of John the Baptist I saw in a subterranean building a temperature controlled cellar. I had no idea it was there in Malta I walked into a room and it was like and it just took my breath away everybody else left the room I stood there for over half an hour in front of the painting I’ve never forgotten it.

“Post communist” sculpture  park in Budapest, I had been on an over night train from Prague to Budapest it was minus 16 and I was up to her knees in snow and all these sculptures have been gathered in one park commemorating the post communist era it was quite something to see still huge in stature and presence monumentally jumbled together displaced in the middle of nowhere it was quite a surreal experience all that history, era propaganda caught in time.

“Isamu Noguchi”  I wrote about for my degree thesis. As a sculptor for me Nuguchi covers all the bases, cross pollination of Japanese American culture juxtapose cultural identity the story behind some of his sculptures you can really see the physical manifestation of his thought process. I’ve see them in person in the Metropolitan Museum New York and his gallery in Brooklyn it was a personal pilgrimage several times for my life.

What do know now about creative work that you wish you’d known when you were younger?

In Ireland the ancient histories were all around with place names megalithic monuments old oral tails so art was an ancient practice in the landscape monumental in nature, Art was not a subject in school the first time I started drawing was while working in a graveyard out of 15 or so we were all given a piece of paper and asked to draw I was picked to document and draw the 19th century monuments for the whole summer sitting on a milk crate so the journey began. I committed to it at 25 years of age I had no misconceptions about my expectations you learn your lessons as you go. I lived in a house full of artists for years I knew the hardships and disillusionment that can follow firstly I saw it as a spiritual currency being true to what is in me and run it as a business one doesn’t come before the other.

What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

It takes 50 minutes or so to walk into work down Mount Pleasant Rd. With the view of the Alps in summer or winter always stunning, I go through Ferrymead park on the way to Woolston crossing the train line with its driftwood fence over the wooden bridge seeing all stone structures adjacent to the water’s edge continuing true a  glade of Scots pine singular in their grouping, very aromatic in summer. You have to go under the Tunnel Road bridge for Lyttleton all the while as you walk the estuary at low tide his full of life for kilometres all the crabs scoring like a rush of wind was over them. Little Pied shag, Heron, Kingfisher, Tui, Fantail, geese. I work on a little island surrounded by tidal water adjacent to the Tannery accessible by a number of bridges, in summer the sea salt is pungent in the outskirts of the city as it is with most secrets they’re hidden in plain sight and this is just an average everyday in Christchurch full of magic.

Journalist, producer, writer


Zara potts here
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