It’s a big deal to win a national art award, especially as an emerging artist with just a few years of active practice. Napier sculptor Glen Colechin’s name was amongst the awards announced this week by the Auckland Botanical Gardens Sculpture in the Gardens Awards as the Popular Choice award winner. 

His successful sculpture is a 2.5 metre tall kotuku (white heron) styled in copper and steel – an elegant and striking piece. Colechin’s engineering background is evident in the fine-tuned angles and curves of the structure that caught the admiring eyes of the public, winning him the $5000 prize.

That he is now winning awards and recognition is largely due to chance and self belief, together with a focused intention to support his family as an artist. The rather scary opportunity to switch from earning a living as an engineer to try his luck at full time art-making was presented when an employment redundancy occurred three years ago. 

He’s a personable guy and very pro-active in seeking out opportunities for his art through exhibitions and entering awards such as Sculpture in the Gardens. For this award he presented a marquet-sized version of the kotuku and his design was selected as one of the final 20 that were chosen out of hundreds of applications focused on a concept reflective of and appropriate to the Auckland Botanical Gardens in Manurewa.

“The title of my piece is ‘Serenity’. It depicts a 2.5 metre tall white heron wading in the shallows of the large pond. The kotuku is regarded in both Māori and pakeha folklore to be a bird of good luck, to be seen just once in a lifetime,” says the sculptor. “It is also the feature of the former Manukau council’s insignias, where the botanical gardens are located.” 


Well-known Clevedon artist, James Wright had advised him to enter for ‘Sculpture in the Gardens 2021’ as the event is a great launching pad for a sculptor’s career, with 360,000 visitors to the gardens over the period of the exhibition. 

Wright had become Colechin’s mentor early on in his newfound art career and he has guided him through the many challenges of becoming an established artist. Wright’s work is regularly featured in the major sculpture prizes, such as Sculpture in the Gardens and Sculpture in the Gulf. They discovered they had a lot in common, both being self-taught artists and coming from a non-academic background, yet ambitious to become noticed and successful in this highly competitive field.

Colechin has found the experience very valuable. “I looked to James for mentorship as he had been working as a full-time sculptor but had originally been a pipelayer, so we were both from humble beginnings. He holds a multitude of awards for his creative ability and is held in high regard, but he pulls no punches when it comes to mentoring which is just what I need, a truthful answer whether or not I feel it to be right or wrong.” 

Glen Colechin creates indoor and outdoor sculpture sold internationally and throughout New Zealand.

Photo by Simon Cartwright – based in Havelock North


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