Collection

Drawing for "Mown"
Fiona Hall

2007

Fiona Hall
b.
1953
Title:
Drawing for "Mown"
Production date:
2007
Accession No:
2013/14
Measurements:
1000 x 800mm
Media:
Pencil on paper

Collection Govett-Brewter Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Gifted by the Artist.

Mown was a garden installed in Pukaka Marsland Memorial Hill Park in Robe St, New Plymouth. It was conceived by Fiona Hall and commissioned by the Govett-Brewster for the exhibition New Nature, curated by Rhana Devenport in 2007. The work incorporated the following plants: Carex dispacea, carex flagellifera bronze, phormium platt’s black and carex testacea, and existed and was cared for by Parks, New Plymouth District Council until 2011.

Mown acknowledged and commemorated Pukaka as an important historic and symbolic New Plymouth site. Hall worked closely with staff from Parks, New Plymouth District Council, to research and plant more than 1,500 New Zealand native plants installed in an area of 190 square metres. The grasses and flax recreated the camouflage formation specific to the New Zealand defence forces. The plants surrounded the memorial that was erected in 1909 to honour those who died in the Taranaki Wars of the mid-nineteenth century (1845-47 and 1860-70).

Mown invites discussion on the destruction and futility of war, while raising awareness of the complex and fraught cultural and colonial history specific to the Taranaki region.

Plants possess the ability to convey local knowledge and significance as living symbols of place and memory. The rejuvenation of the memorial with native plants acted as a tribute to all those connected with this site throughout its history. A spiral path to the memorial resembles the unfurling young frond of a ponga or tree fern, a symbol of rebirth.

Pukaka was originally a Pā site for Te Ātiawa and Nga Potiki Taua that was abandoned by the time European settlers arrived. In the early 1850s, the top of the hill was removed and the site utilised for British military barracks, a defence signalling system and as a place of refuge for New Plymouth settlers nervous of attack from Māori. After the imperial troops left in 1870, the barracks were used as temporary accommodation for immigrants until the buildings became untenable and were dismantled. Marsland Hill was then designated as a town reserve. The marble soldier that originally featured atop the memorial – carved in Italy and mistakenly clasping a hand over the muzzle of his firearm – was vandalised and destroyed in 1992, leaving the plinth empty, as it is today.