Steel menagerie on display

May 29th, 2017 | By | Category: Latest News, Local People

Tamahere sculptor Marti Wong sits in the high-backed, regal-looking throne and his hand automatically alights on the head of the dog sitting obediently at his feet.

Enthroned: sculptor Marti Wong and his cool canine

The dog is cool to his touch. So is the throne. And a menagerie of animals ranging around them both.

Wong, the sculptor in steel of creatures both commonplace and mythological, has again been amassing a collection which will be exhibited from Thursday, June 1 at Hamilton’s Soul Gallery.

It’s been well over a year since Wong’s last exhibition and that only came after a four-year hiatus. Commissions keep the popular sculptor busy but in three months of solid work he’s managed to craft around 20 pieces from delicate moths to menacing dinosaurs for the latest month-long display.

“These are the pets I’d like to have,” Wong says of the collection he’s dubbed, fittingly, Menagerie. “They are a kind of private zoo.”

Presumably, he’d like to sit in the fearsome throne to survey his macabre realm. He swears its very comfortable. But he won’t be lolling back in it for long: the chair is also part of the exhibition.

A panther on the prowl in the Wong workshop

A panther glints in the afternoon sun that makes a brief appearance through the workshop window. It’s decided to take a cat outside so, like all cats, even those made from bolts and spoons, it can bask on a warming tree stump.

Do the fossicked pieces of metal suggest their new form or are Wong’s dreams stalked by metal menageries?

Both, he says. A chrome mudguard once inspired a sculpture of an alien. He saw it, thought “alien head” and then bent 400 to 500 other pieces of metal into service as its body and limbs.

Outside on Tamahere roads, still to be collected junk from the annual inorganic recycling collection has spread across verges. Even inveterate collector Wong has a small pile outside his gate. Ironically, though, the wherewithal for his sculptures is getting harder to find.

“It’s getting harder to find parts,” Wong says. “A few years ago, China bought up a lot of metal and it’s been harder to get since then.”

He gets by fossicking among the resources of a few buddies.

Cool cat warms in the sun

Wong’s fans will be pleased about that. They can also discuss his work with him at Barton St’s Soul Gallery on Saturday, June 3. The exhibition is not having an official opening but Wong will be in the gallery from 11am to 2pm that day.

In true Wong family style, the display will also feature the paintings of Wong’s wife, Kathryn Engebretsen, and a metal dinosaur by son, Sam.

Menagerie will run for all of June.

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