Gardens of the mind

A wall of vertical railway sleepers painted black and lined up like a guard of honour led the way to the Garden of Creative Diversity. Halfway along it, through a gap in this barrier, appeared a delicate bronze deer.

Sculptureum’s creator Anthony Grant with the giant pink snails

Pretty and poised, she was gazing at the two bronze ducks perched on the wall above her. This was such an artistic touch – the dynamic hind juxtaposed to the stationary wall – that I knew immediately my visit to Sculptureum at Matakana was going to be an enlightening experience.

A bronze deer breaks through the solid line of the fence

The pathway led to the Garden of Creative Diversity, which first opened out to a classical courtyard, a carefully orchestrated display of fountains, nymphs, cherubs, nudes, lions and manicured plantings.

A lion prowls the classical garden 

If this had been all there was, I’d have been satisfied. But, of course, it wasn’t. Built on 25 hectares near Warkworth, Sculptureum comprises several indoor galleries and enclosed gardens designed to display around 750 singular artworks and objects.

The formal courtyard opens into a contrasting natural garden of organic shapes and curving paths winding through plantings of exotic trees and groves of Queen and Pitt Island nikau palms.

A study in bronze

The pathways themselves are works of art, textured by camel-coloured concrete, pebbled edges, fl agstones of grey schist and borders of bricks and mondo grasses. They led me on an intriguing journey, past sculptures in bronze, driftwood, and large natural rocks sculptured by the elements, all with the purpose of encouraging observers to refl ect on nature, wisdom, words, art and music.

A driftwood horse grazes on mondo grass

I was fascinated by the area known as the Garden of Refl ection, where a collection of large, black-framed panels are inscribed with pithy quotes from well-known philosophers and entrepreneurs.

As much as anything else, these set Sculptureum apart and they had a noticeable impact on me and my fellow wanderers. Chitchat was replaced by silence as we contemplated the meanings of the messages.

My favourite was from an Apple advertisement. “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfi ts, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently.

People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” I’ve never thought I’d change the world but I related to the round peg. The garden design is such that even though there were a lot of visitors that day, it didn’t feel crowded.

I can’t say that for Rothko, the chic on-site restaurant, which was abuzz with a chattering crowd of imbibers and diners. We hadn’t booked and, particularly at weekends, it would be wise to do so.

We forewent our appetites and feasted instead on the menu of wonderful art and decorative works on the other side of the restaurant where there are six indoor galleries. Each follows a different theme.

Playing with light in one of the indoor galleries 

I marvelled at the exceptional collection of glass art, the paintings by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and Cézanne and the grand glass chandelier by the famous American artist Dale Chihuly. Half hidden among the foliage of the Palm Garden gallery, the clever and quirky decorative works were equally intriguing.

A polar bear depicted in metal

Many often tugged at my sense of humour. The final garden houses a polar bear depicted in metal, a green plastic bunny as big as a garden shed, and an enormous pink snail by the Cracking Art group of Milan.

Curving pathways of various textures are part of the artistry

Time to go, and down the path came Anthony Grant, the ebullient barrister who, with his wife Sandra, is the author (and funder) of this astonishing showcase. He wore a blue fedora and matching shirt and held in one hand a glass of red wine.

Clearly he loves his creation and, like a man possessed, he wants others to love it too. If I wasn’t already enthused, his zeal for the project would change my mind. Apparently, he gets up at four every morning, no doubt brimming with ideas.

“You’ll have to come back,” he said. “I’ve got four wonderful new pieces arriving next week.” With no inkling that I was writing about Sculptureum, he wanted to know what I

Caught on the hop, it was hard to sum up and I slipped into platitudes. There was so much to absorb, so much to examine and analyse. I’ll have to do as Anthony ordered. I’ll go back.

Win two tickets to the Sculptureum


Be in to win two tickets to the gardens and galleries at the Sculptureum, valued at $39 each. Enter here before 23 August, 2019.

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