Updated 25 March 2020
Beacon, a striking new circular sculpture in polished stainless steel by Auckland artist Lang Ea, has arrived at Milford Reserve and is expected to bring a welcoming experience for people as they walk the dog and get fresh air during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It’s hoped it might even bring a glimmer of joy in these uncertain times.
Auckland Council’s Emily Trent says: “When we first saw concept drawings for Beacon about 18 months ago we never imagined New Zealand would be facing challenges like this at the time of the work’s installation.”
“But we hope this artwork can guide us like beacons do: help us reflect on our loved ones, treasure the moment and be inspired with hope for the future,” she says.
“Our commitment is always to bring inspiring public art to our public spaces in Auckland. We commission art that is thought-provoking, vibrant and challenging. Lang has brought us a beautiful work which delivers on all levels.”
Lang Ea says: “This sculpture symbolises and reflects the significant and courageous achievements of the suffragettes more than a century ago and lights the way for women in the present and future.”
It has a camellia shape, coloured in violet, at its centre. The colour violet was adopted by suffrage petitioners to represent dignity and self-respect, and in Beacon it speaks to contemporary themes of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Lighting has been installed and will be activated when it's possible at a future date. Once the lighting is turned on, the community will see soft violet light wash over Beacon from dusk until 10pm.
Lang cites a poignant quote by Kate Sheppard in her fight for equal recognition of women in New Zealand in the late 1800s: “We are tired of having a ‘sphere’ doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is ‘unwomanly’.” This sentiment forms part of the inspiration for Lang’s Beacon.
“You are how you see yourself,” was her father’s advice when Lang left home for the first time to study Architecture and Design at Victoria University in Wellington.
Lang’s family had fled Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and after spending three years in various Thailand refugee camps, immigrated to New Zealand in 1982 when she was eight years old.
In Lang’s arts practice she draws on her experience of war as a child and conveys the concept of not ‘unseeing’ the aspects of war we find confronting.
Lang feels privileged to have grown up in New Zealand believing and knowing she could do anything. However, she also feels it is imperative she never forgets her father’s words. With Beacon she hopes women and girls will look in the mirrored surface and be proud of the person reflected back.
Beacon is located next to the Milford-Takapuna walking track in a vibrant, much-used community space, and the new work of public art is supported by the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board.
Once Lang had designed Beacon, engineering expertise was brought in.
Taranaki-based company Global Stainless were engaged to make the artwork. With experience fabricating and polishing large stainless-steel works of art, they ensured the joined weld seams in Beacon were invisible in the finished polished work.
Emily Trent adds that when people are viewing Beacon they should avoid touching the work and follow the strict hygiene and physical distancing advice of the government at this time.
Beacon is Auckland Council’s newest addition to the city’s 400-strong region-wide collection.