Sculpture, Marte Szirmay (Dunedin Medical
School, Great King St)
Sculpture, By Marte Szirmay.
At the beginning of the year, the few open galleries around
Dunedin are generally showing stock shows, and an opportunity
exists to examine art elsewhere on general public display.
One area of considerable interest is around Dunedin Public
Hospital and Medical School. The latter has several
sculptural works as part of its buildings or nearby, among
them Marte Szirmay's prosaically titled Sculpture, its
abstract form created from folded sheets of anodised
The work is brutally modernist, an ironic name for a style
which now seems dated to many. Yet even a seemingly simple
piece like this is capable of surprising. For many years,
from its construction in 1975, this piece was at street
level, lying on its side. A change to the urban landscape in
2006 saw it hoisted above street level on to a wall of the
Whether this location was the artist's original intention or
not, it has caused a major transformation in the perception
of the piece. The work has more life, as the whole object can
now be readily seen at a glance. Its folds now have a dynamic
interplay with the corrugated walls of the nearby medical
library building, allowing the sculpture to add a pleasing
and harmonious aspect to the streetscape.
Dunedin Public Hospital Chapel (Dunedin Public
Stained glass window, by Elizabeth Stevens.
Located deep within the hospital's main building is its chapel.
This haven emanates an air of calm and is highly attractive
even to the non-religious.
The sparse elegance of the room is a fine example of the
grandly austere modern design which has been widely used in
chapels and churches from the end of World War 2 onwards,
perhaps best exemplified (on a far grander scale) by the
chapels of the new Coventry Cathedral in England.
The chapel is airy and naturally lit, and makes fine use of
bare timber both as a soft linear feature and as blinds to
baffle and diffuse the light. Focus is thereby drawn away
from plainer windows to the pictorial stained glass,
especially to a large attractive work by Elizabeth Stevens.
The opposing wall of the chapel, both literally and
metaphorically, reflects the window's colours with a series
of simple yet powerful embroidered works by Gay Eaton and the
Otago Embroiderers Guild.
More works of note can be found in and around the chapel,
most notably a large cross by Peter Nicholls constructed from
Southland beech, brass and steel. Austere, in keeping with
its surroundings, this work nevertheless captures the spirit
and grace of Christ's crucifixion far more effectively than
many more prosaic representations.
The Dunedin Public Hospital collection (Dunedin Public
Bride, groom, vacation, by Pat Hanly.
It is often forgotten that Dunedin Public Hospital has one of
the country's finest institutional art collections. This is in
part because the art is scattered throughout many floors and
wards rather than being a single concerted display.
One place where a considerable number of works is found,
however, is the main corridor connecting the hospital's Great
King St and Cumberland St entrances. Here lies a substantial
display leading directly to and from the well-known
sculptural installations around the main atrium.
The collection was started under the auspices of Prof Alan
Clarke in the 1970s, a now seemingly mythical time when
hospitals could allow for some discretionary spending. The
art advisory committee chose wisely, and the collection has
also grown by donations from both artists and grateful
patients and their families.
Many fine works are on display (though unfortunately not all
well labelled), including several from the cream of New
Zealand modern art. Among these, impressive images by Jeffrey
Harris and Pat Hanly are notable, as is the massive
McCahon-influenced multi-panelled work of Robin White,
Seven Hills, which crowns the collection.
It should be kept in mind that the works are within a working
environment where art is of secondary importance; as such,
the casual viewer should demur to any more urgent uses of the