Toddlers frolicking in a wading pool is not something you’d normally associate with the National Gallery of Victoria but this year’s Architecture Commission – a bright pink pool that measures 21 metres by 16 metres – might convince you otherwise.
The pond – titled Pond(er) and containing Henry Moore’s 1958 bronze sculpture Draped seated woman – appears as though it’s an integral part of the garden, a deliberate effort by the designers, architects Taylor Knights and artist James Carey.
The NGV’s 2021 Architectural Commission Pond(er), designed by artist James Carey in collaboration with architects Taylor Knight.Credit:Wayne Taylor
It was inspired by natural pink lakes, particularly Pink Lake in western Victoria near Dimboola, and as the name suggests, was intended to provide a space for people to relax and play but also to contemplate the big issues facing society today – in particular, the scarcity, importance and political implications of water.
Devised in the aftermath of the bushfires in 2019 and early 2020, artist Carey saw the commission as an opportunity to highlight threats to the environment and the adversity we are facing. The aim was to create and encourage more local awareness.
Carey says there’s a seriousness to the work but at the same time a playfulness. “We’re not focusing on the negative impacts of the past, we’re looking at ways we can live, work and play differently that might encourage a closer relationship with our local ecologies,” he said, “and through that trying to address these kinds of concerns.”
“We do think the future is positive and bright and through this installation we highlight that.”
Left to right, designers Peter Knights and Eva Flonndo, artist James Carey, and James Taylor of Knights Taylor. Credit:Wayne Taylor
Pond(er) references the NGV’s famous moat facing St Kilda Road, as well as the much-treasured water wall at the building’s entrance. Peter Knights from Knights Taylor says it also pays tribute to Roy Grounds’ open-air courtyards in the original design of NGV International.
Adjoining the pond and also part of the commission is a garden planted with native flowers, designed in association with Ben Scott Garden Design, which will bloom at different times over the course of Pond(er)’s life. The garden component underlines the ever-changing nature of our surrounding ecology, its beauty and preciousness, as well as its need for protection.
The last Architecture Commission was In Absence, created by Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office in 2019, which went on to win the global award for small building of the year at the 2020 Dezeen Awards. An annual event in a two-part competition, the NGV’s Architecture Commission has been held since 2015.
A child enjoying Pond(er) at NGV International.Credit:Kerrie O’Brien
Pond(er) is a clever addition to the lists of works created for the gallery. On one level, it is a sophisticated, challenging piece; on another, it’s a playful, beautiful spectacle to be enjoyed – something we can all do with right now.
Pond(er) is at NGV International until August 28, 2022.
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