The South British Insurance Company Building unveils Fragile Nature in the heart of Auckland’s CBD – a site-specific, large-scale painting by Wei Lun Ha, winner of the 2016 Wallace Trust Vermont Art Award.
The New Zealand-Chinese artist has taken up the challenge to create this ambitious 3m x 7m painting in the high profile, heritage lobby of the South British Insurance Company Building, located on the corner of Auckland’s Shortland and High Streets. The mural-scale artwork draws on the artist’s years of training in the ancient Chinese art of painting.
Fragile Nature captures a Chinese aesthetic that the artist takes to another place.
Paul Baragwanath, Director of ARTTFORM art advisory who commissioned the work, says that Fragile Nature is an exceptional example of how art can transform public-private realm spaces, creating memorable experiences for city residents, workers and visitors alike.
Fragile Nature is the next in a series of works that form the South British Insurance Company Building Art Project, a rare initiative in New Zealand for a corporate entity to commission large-scale artworks on a regular basis. The artwork is free for all and has become an art destination in Auckland.
Wei Lun Ha was born in Ho Chi Minh city in 1987 and moved to New Zealand at the age of two. He trained in the Lingnan School, a style of painting that originated in Southern China during the nineteenth century which was influenced by contact with Europe and Japan. It prioritizes a fine painting technique that requires almost surgeon-like precision. Determined to overcome hand tremors that he experienced from a young age, Wei Lun practiced diligently for ten years from the age of eighteen to achieve this level of accuracy in his practice.
Working at diverse scales, Wei Lun draws on rich experience creating jewel-like artworks in sketchbooks through to large-scale murals. Public artworks include last year at White Night (Parnell, Auckland) a mural-scale performance piece painted before a live audience, another for the Chinese Lantern Festival and also for Auckland Airport. Wei Lun holds a Masters of Architecture Degree from the University of Auckland evident in the artist’s developed sense of spatial possibility.
In 2015 he went on to win the People’s Choice category in the annual Wallace Art Awards, going on to win the Wallace Art Award (Vermont Residency) in 2016. His successful entry, Breathtakingly Fragile (2015), was painted in traditional Chinese ink and resin on fabric. The piece will tour around New Zealand, then to Poland to make the opening for the Museum Art Fair.
At the South British Insurance Company Building, Fragile Nature fuses classic Chinese designs and aesthetic with a contemporary sensibility to activate the dynamic curve and lavish architecture of this 1920s art deco lobby.
The work also serves to direct foot traffic within the space, and provides respite from a busy day, lost in the space and incredible detail of Fragile Nature. The painterly drips evoke the fury and fragility of the nature world that the artist injects into the Lobby.
Referencing the awe-inspiring landscapes of New Zealand and the precariousness of existence, the subject matter echoes the artist’s sentiment that “life is like waves, we are just a sound in the ocean”. The immensity of the waterfall creates an outer-world experience that pays homage to the qualities of the heritage architecture. Rendered in cobalt blue on white ground with accents of gold, the style is reminiscent of paintings on porcelain that were produced during the Chinese Ming Dynasty.
Karl Cook, Chair of the Body Corporate committee for the building comments: “the Art Project is a defining feature in our building. Each exhibition has enhanced the experience in our Chicago-style entrance lobby for owners, occupants and visitors alike and it has become a real art destination in Auckland.”
The exhibition will be on display at the South British Insurance Company Building from Wednesday 1 February for six months. The building is located on the corner of Shortland and High Streets, Auckland CBD.
Auckland CBD, Tuesday 31 January 2017
5.30 – 7pm
All welcome. Includes hospitality and a brief artist's introduction at 6pm.
The Lobby – South British Insurance Company Limited Building
3–13 Shortland St
Cnr Shortland St and High St
Entry is free and access is open to the public Monday-Friday during working hours.