We Are Not Alone (Exchange Plaza): 1999

We Are Not Alone (Exchange Plaza): 1999

Artist: Parry Jones

Bronze

Exchange Plaza, Dunedin

two of the three penguin characters are shown here
photos, Mike O’Kane

(Sculpture Trail #14)

InSite

Bronze Penguins… John Wickliffe Square………. Parry Jones, artist.

Collectively entitled “We are not alone” these three small bronze sculptures were installed in August 1999 as part of a Dunedin City Council initiative to encourage art in public places. Distributed randomly around the Exchange the knee-high sculptures provide an anarchic counterpoint to the formal square outside John Wickliffe House and the extravagance of the Gothic Revival Cargill Monument in its corner. Each penguin weighs about 130 kilograms and is 700 millimetres tall. The cost per bird was about $5500. Two were sponsored by local businesses, Speedprint and Edinburgh Holdings and the third was paid for by the city council.

Each of the three penguins has a character special to the business that sponsored them. The Speedprint penguin is shown wearing a printer’s shade with the company’s name on it and has a badge on his breast. The bird holds a printer’s stamp upon which all the writing is back to front this, of course, being the way letterpress printing works. The writing will come out the right way round when inked and pressed on paper. The Edinburgh Holdings Penguin is kitted out for business in a neck tie and carrying a mobile phone and a bundle of property agreements. The City Council Penguin has no accessories but instead is shown in repose with flippers across its chest as if listening to a constituent.

About one hundred people watched as Mayor Sukhi Turner removed raincoats from each of the birds by way of an unveiling. Mrs Turner said she hoped a larger and larger flock of penguins would develop in the Exchange although this has not happened. Peter Simkins from the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust said the statues would play an important part in protecting penguins by promoting public awareness and it is true that the penguins draw attention to one of the distinctive attractions of the Otago Region.

The penguins were modelled first in Oamaru stone from which a fibre glass mould was taken for the bronze casting. The artist Parry Jones has had a number of successes since 1999. In 2000 he was joint winner of the Cleveland Sculpture Award with Derek Ball and last year his first ever painting “Try Time” featured on the cover of the telephone directory, having won the regional Telecom Art Award.

Richard Dingwall

28 January, 2004

Text Copyright Richard Dingwall