Industrious artist reinventing scrap


Hard steel and sturdy bronze become delicate feathers and soaring forms in the hands of sculptor Simon Max Bannister, of Wanaka.
Originally from South Africa, he and his partner moved to Wanaka about two years ago.
‘‘It has been incredible coming over here.’’

Both he and his wife, Chelsea, enjoyed getting outdoors and exploring nature.
During a holiday in New Zealand they visited Wanaka and thought it was ‘‘absolutely incredible’’.
Both loved it so much they decided to return to live, his wife finding work as a vet, and Max Bannister setting up a workshop in a container near Luggate Red Bridge.

His work was an exploration of industrial materials and how industry inevitably takes a toll on the environment, as human progress can lead to habitat loss.
‘‘It always comes back to that gain and that loss.’’
While walking through a timber yard he noticed how there were splinters of wood everywhere.
‘‘I couldn’t help but see the connection between the splinters and feathers.’’

Using small pieces of wood, Max Bannister was able to create the shapes of birds.
‘‘I just thought this was a strong metaphor for habitat loss.’’
After making his wood sculpture he creates a mould around it, and places that in a kiln.
The wood is burned away, leaving a hollow space inside the mould.
‘‘That then makes a negative space that I can pour the bronze into, and so that creates an enduring shape of the original fragile piece.’’

Kakapo in bronze. PHOTO: Simon Max Bannister

The process encompassed a concept of rebirth — ‘‘this new form, enduring versus something ephemeral, it really epitomises that idea’’.

As well as his smaller bronze sculptures, Max Bannister also creates large-scale pieces in steel.
Massive steel I-beams are gradually transformed into delicate creatures that seem to grow out of the steel, slowly evolving from rough construction forms into birds in flight.
There was ‘‘ a kind of poetry’’ to using an industrial base material ‘‘in quite an organic, skeletal form’’.

For these larger sculptures designed to be displayed outdoors he hoped, over time, the forms would take on moss and lichen, and plants would grow over them — ‘‘so they can weather the seasons and be part of the landscape’’.

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