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Bush walk art by world renowned Waikato artist

Waikato-born artist Susan Skerman will be the special guest at Waikato District Health Board’s Older Persons and Rehabilitation Building on Friday (5 December) to see her world-renowned hanging artwork panels’ new home in the building’s foyer/atrium.

The Perspex panels are in 3D and are called Bush Walk, and they have an interesting history.

The Susan Skerman panels in their new home in the Older Persons and Rehabilitation Building

The Susan Skerman panels in their new home in the Older Persons and Rehabilitation Building

The panels were originally part of a large-scale installation which was the centrepiece of the New Zealand pavilion at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, Japan.

On that occasion 700 panels depicting native ferns and other plants were hung on either side of a swing bridge walkway to give visitors a sense of moving through an untrammelled, light-infused native forest. More than seven million visitors viewed the display.

Using materials and printing techniques which were innovative at the time Bush Walk was produced, the display evokes the energy and character of the ancient New Zealand bush.

Onto perspex she screen-printed life-size renditions of tree trunks and foliage. She wrote in 1971 that she didn’t see landscape “as an accessory to human life or as a background to human events’; her work is more concerned with the “identification of the life of man with the life of nature. And this is what I mean when I talk about the inner perception of nature. It has a soul.”

The panels were subsequently brought back to New Zealand and some hung in Parliament’s Beehive building in Wellington and others were gifted to Waikato DHB and installed in the Elizabeth Rothwell Building.

About 10 years ago panels were taken down and put in storage while the DHB completed its $500 million building programme. With the artist’s permission they have been reinstalled where they will show to best effect.

Ms Skerman was born on a farm near Te Awamutu in 1928, was educated at Nga Tawa and Canterbury University School of Art, before studying at London’s Central School of Art and Craft from 1953-55.

Returning to New Zealand, her first solo exhibition was held in Hamilton in 1955.

Ms Skerman has worked as a museum technician, an art and design tutor, and as an artist. She now lives in Waikanae and remains a much-respected presence in the New Zealand cultural scene.

Waikato DHB’s Arts Advisory Committee supported the installation of this piece of public art while the Waikato Health Trust funded its installation.Mary Anne Gill

Committee chair Mary Anne Gill said she was looking forward to meeting Ms Skerman for the first time.

“We are so thrilled to have finally found a suitable home for these panels. Patients and staff who view them in their new home are universally thrilled with them. It is a very special display honouring one of Waikato’s most famous artists.”

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