On the Cover: “Kanuka Sphere”

The cover of the January/February 2014 issue of Orion features “Kanuka Sphere,” a sculpture and photograph by New Zealand-based artist Martin Hill. Learn more about Martin and his remarkable works at his website.

What inspired this sculpture, and how was it constructed?

The Kanuka Sphere was made using natural materials found at the sculpture’s site—in this case, the remains of dead kanuka trees that had been flooded by a lake. Because those trees have long, thin trunks, we were able to push their ends into soft clay in parts of the lake bed formed by retreating glaciers eons ago.

The Sphere’s setting is spectacular. Where was this photograph taken?

The sculpture was built and photographed near Mount Aspiring National Park, which is in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. (I live in a town called Wanaka, which is where this and many of my other sculptures are made.) This place is, in my opinion, one of the least spoiled and most beautiful mountain regions in the world.

What sort of feeling or idea do you hope to inspire in the sculpture’s viewers?

The half sphere of criss-crossed sticks was designed to reflect and achieve a full sphere referencing the Earth. The feeling or idea embodied in the work is that the Earth’s environment is a network of fragile, interconnected systems, all of which are integral to the whole system. If one part fails, the integrity of the whole system is compromised.

Circles, spheres, and continual shapes are a strong theme in much of your work. Why? What attracts you to those shapes?

Both my use of materials that return to nature and the circular forms of many of my works echo the cyclical processes that emerge from nature’s operating principles. The human model of progress relies on the destruction of natural systems, with our linear take-make-waste mode of living; the solution is to build new systems that are cyclical, and thus compatible with nature. The “circular economy” of my art is an attempt to show this.

What are you working on now?

For the last two years, I’ve been building a new body of work for exhibition, entitled “Watershed,” in collaboration with Philippa Jones. It will be exhibited at McClelland Gallery in Melbourne, Australia and, later, at Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand. This work has been an exciting development for my artistic practice, which I plan to develop even further.

Philippa and I will focus next on completing the Fine Line Project, a twenty-year effort to build twelve sculptures on high points around the world, forming a symbolic line around the Earth.

Visit www.martin-hill.com/gallery for more images from New Zealand. To pick up a copy of the January/February 2014 issue of Orion, visit our online store or simply subscribe.


  1. This is great, reminds one of Goldsworthy and other ephemeral art practitioners who draw crucial conclusions, like Martin’s “circular economy” one above.

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