Martyn Myer AO of the leading Melbourne retail family is pleased to announce Wanaka-based artist Martin Hill and his partner, Philippa Jones, as winners of the first annual Kenneth Myer Artist’s/Writer’s Retreat.
Martin Hill and Philippa Jones, celebrated for their striking environmental sculptures and photographs, will be based at Whare Kea Chalet over the next week through to Tuesday, 2 October, and for a further 10 days in December.
Dramatically situated high in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, at 1750 metres on the north side of Dragonfly Peak, the luxurious chalet is a 20-minute helicopter flight from Martyn and Louise Myer’s Whare Kea Lodge on the banks of Lake Wanaka.
Martyn Myer established the retreat to mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of his father, Kenneth Myer, who was long involved in the visual and performing arts. He was chairman of the Victorian Arts Centre Trust for three decades, and a board member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for a number of years. As with the present generation of his family, he had a great affinity with the mountains and was an enthusiastic trout fisherman.
“The retreat provides a writer, poet, visual artist, photographer or composer with the opportunity to step away from their day-to-day lives,” says Martyn Myer. “We hope the remoteness of the chalet may provide stimulation for creative thinking. The work they carry out does not have to be directly related to where they are, or in fact the location may be part of the inspiration and what they do.
“The chalet has astounding views westward to Mount Aspiring’s tumbling glaciers, and north-east to Mount Cook, which is visible on the horizon,” says Martyn Myer.*
Artists Hill and Jones were chosen as the winners of the first retreat following a careful review of entrants and their work by an assessing panel.
“We were familiar with the works of well-known artist Andy Goldsworthy, who does a lot of environmental sculpture,” says Myer. “Martin Hill is in a similar vein, and I like that form of sculpture very well, being engaged with the landscape and making something creative and artistic out of it.”
When Myer discovered the work of Hill at Gallery 33 in Wanaka, he was struck by the philosophy behind it. Hence, when it came to the retreat project, Myer wished for him to consider it. “His environmental sculptures tie in with what we are doing here, based on themes around the environment and sustainability.”
Both mountaineers and locals, Hill and Jones will take up the residency offer over two occasions, one in September in cooler conditions, allowing for snow and ice sculptures, and a second in December, in the height of summer. “This will mean a lovely contrast in the work and exhibition they create,” says Myer.
Hill has now unveiled the scope of the project, with the inspiration coming directly from Whare Kea Chalet. In collaboration with Jones, he is planning a series of ephemeral and permanent sculptures, works on paper, photographic works, and video, under the concept name Watershed.
“In the Watershed project I will explore the alpine environment and nature’s law that governs it,” says Hill.
“The body of work we create will be more diverse than we have previously made, incorporating new ideas and mediums. The intention is to make new kinds of works about the relationship between human systems and the water cycle. Alpine snow and ice is integral to the earth’s water system. For example, the Himalayan ice feeds the river systems of India and Pakistan and their populations are dependent on their flow for survival. Climate change is affecting the water patterns of the world.
“Watershed has other meanings for me: not only is humanity at a watershed in terms of ecological and social sustainability, but I also am at a watershed in that I am looking at new ways to approach the issues that my work has always been about.”
Hill’s primary practice over the past 20 years has been to use naturally occurring materials to create ephemeral sculptures to convey the cyclical movement of matter through different ecosystems.
“Philippa and I often go into the alpine wilderness on foot, carrying everything we need to survive and work for several days. This marvellous opportunity of the retreat offers us a chance to spend a significant time exploring and working in the natural environment at altitude, while having the protection of a beautiful luxury base,” says Hill.
The generous retreat prize includes a fully catered stay at Whare Kea Chalet from 10 to 20 days, with a mountain guide for support for the first two days, plus return helicopter transfers and a weekly helicopter to bring supplies.
Criteria for the retreat specifies that the winner should be a accompanied by a partner, that both should have relevant mountain experience, whether tramping, mountaineering or off-piste skiing, and that one of the duo blogs on Whare Kea’s website every other day. The Myers have requested that work ultimately published or exhibited features acknowledgment of the Kenneth Myer Retreat and the support of the Louise and Martyn Myer Foundation, as well as Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet.
* Quote from Martyn and Louise Myer’s book, Wanaka: Earth to Heaven at Whare Kea by Michal McKay, with photographs by Kieran Scott. Published by Godwit, an imprint of Random House New Zealand. Around $65, at leading bookstores in Sydney, including Lesley McKay’s Bookshop, Woollahra, and in Melbourne at My Bookshop by Corrie Perkin, Hawksburn, and at select Myer stores in both cities.