Wild landscapes

Sculptor Simon Max Bannister’s works carry a powerful essence, often becoming symbols of our relationship with the environment and the wildlife within it. We explore some of his recent installations and the pairing of delicate and ephemeral details with strong angular gestures.

Hawk Harkening, 2023, pays tribute to its majestic setting on a site where a house is yet to be built north of Medlands Beach on Aotea, Great Barrier Island. “It’s an exquisite wild cove, with the hawk facing the oncoming wind”.

Articulating movement, Simon’s pieces are often large in scale and bring together a vast number of elements to produce a cohesive whole — one that prompts a moment of surprise or contemplation. His works often depict figures in transformation; animal or human figures in flux yet permanent, themselves becoming a resting place for the wildlife they frequently depict.

Growing up in South Africa, Simon has had a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors and a fascination for birds, particularly birds of prey. He describes the falcon as an animal that is “fierce and yet beautiful at the same time, a reminder of what the world is like”.

Actaeon, 2019, is located on a farm in the foothills of Coronet Peak. Here, this human figure, the archer, takes aim at an unseen stag. “The story here in Greek mythology is that the hunter becomes the hunted, and this piece is part of a trilogy that depicts the hunter transforming into the hunted stag”.

“Wildlife is always a key emphasis in my work. I find it is about creating a space for wildlife, and then placing a sculpture that becomes a guardian of that wildlife in the landscape,” he explains. In doing so, Simon’s work invites consideration of the need for conservation and our relationship with the natural world. “I love the canvas of the Otago landscape in particular. There is so much variety and texture hidden in these beautiful areas. With private commissions, I enjoy spending time on site and sketching to envision a unique piece for a particular location.”

Wings Over Water, 2023, depicts a swallow in flight over a man-made lake in a private home near Queenstown. “What I like about this sculpture is that it becomes a focal point, accentuating the reflective surface of the water”.

Simon favours the use of Cor-Ten steel, a material that he enjoys because of its durability and cohesiveness, along with its ability to disappear into the landscape: “If you don’t focus on it, it falls away into its natural setting. If you do focus on it, the earthy tones, angles, and shadows of the steel come together to articulate the form. After rain, the ochres in the metal glow, almost as if it is has been activated.”


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