It’s a big sky that awaits you if you get to the vantage point at the top of the Minden Road, high on the ridge of Rangituanehu…
And on the way up, you may notice a part-completed artwork on the interestingly-weathered skin of the water reservoir, newly arrived, already looking quite at home in the landscape, but also drawing glaring attention to the bits of it that have not yet had The Treatment. Dux and his mates have been up there this week, with encouragement from Ben and the Minden Graffiti Prevention Youth at Risk Project (now there’s an artwork title!) and, limited only by the reach of their stepladders and paintbrushes, have created the beginnings of what could be a terrific ornament to the uphill community of Te Puna.
Let’s put it this way: there’s plenty of room left for sky. Tangaroa and Papatuanuku have been celebrated. What’s there is, given the scope of the canvas, sometimes a bit underdone: the tree on the right could stand a bit more treatment, as could the large dark promontory stretching into the waters of Tauranga Moana )– but the detail on Mauao himself, not visible to the motorist’s eye but very worthwhile to the stopper-and-looker, is beautifully realised and very rewarding. This shows us what these artists can do, given time and space.
I like the sculptural form anchoring the extreme left-hand edge of the image, and definitely look for a similar complementary painted pou on the other end of the as-yet-unexplored curve of the reservoir that moves off into the hillside, away from the motorists’ casual and flickering gaze, a slightly secret space to reward someone who takes the time to stop and move around the shape of the work.
This is, no question, industrial space. The surface itself offers texture and opportunities to make the background work for the painters. Sky-father Rangi is not yet present, but his clouds and moods and challenges are just waiting for a bit more input and expression from these artists. What a huge potential this structure has, both as a well-integrated cultural marker and an artwork in a wonderful position.
Overall, the work is clearly (though understandably) unfinished. Ben Wilson of Western Bay of Plenty District Council, who has an entertaining tale to tell of the suddenness of the decision to Get Up There And Paint, explains that they did what was within their reach on a perfect day for painting, in the teeth of some initial local suspicion (we’re glad they asked), and then more-or-less continuous community encouragement as the day went on and as the painters’ vision became more and more clear. Clear, but it’s not done yet. We can now see what else could be done with this grand precursor of what you will see from the lookout up above. A unique mountain. A beautiful harbour. And a lot, a whole lot, of sky.
Your Te Puna Correspondent