The seemingly peaceful Te Awanga hills hide a hive of innovation and activation. 

Bathed in late and longed for sunlight, art is happening, at a furious pace. The Outfield artistic community has spread its net wide, harvesting a vast network of skills, abilities and visions. Teams of volunteers busily pursue their various missions, and lend each other hands to complete the behemoth task of bringing this very special festival to fruition. 

This year’s scramble is particularly intense due to weather-related delays that have plagued the outdoor events industry across the country. But a hilltop karakia, and a concentrated collective intention to manifest sunshine seem to have paid off. On site creations are having finishing touches added, bits of installation are arriving daily and preparations are being made for live painting on the day. 

By the time Saturday afternoon rolls around, festival goers are promised a delight for the eyes and the mind, the product of community artistic endeavour founded on a grounding of inclusion, of giving a local mix of established and emerging artists opportunity to create an immersive experience unique to Outfield. 

Artistic Director Sophie Watkins leads from the front, utilising her superlative talent for bringing a crew together, sourcing the will and skill to get the job done and make it beautiful. An accomplished creator in her own right, splashes of Watkins can be seen throughout the artistic vision. She balances the needs and desires of a range of creative personalities, making sure everyone has space to express themselves while curtailing their more unfeasible excesses, just as she balances her baby on her back.

Outfield’s art starts from the very start. The curious and colourful entranceway comes from the brain and paintbrush of the mysterious Severely, aided by Treadwell. Sev creates great characters across an expanse of modalities, here rendered in grand scale. Three thousand festival goers will pass beneath the teeth of the beast and make merry under its watchful eyes. Like the newly greened landscape, testimony to our changing climate, the piece that debuted in 2021 has undergone recolouring for a festival made anew with each iteration, while retaining the same quirky spirit that makes it distinct.

A short meander down the festoon lined dusty country road brings you into view of a behemoth snake and sword, high on the hill overlooking the revelry. Created by the brilliant mind and skilled hands of Fish Aberadi, this large scale installation relies on geometric principles, precisely detailed design and execution, a deep understanding of metaphysical energy and good human fun, in Fish’s signature style. An archetypal symbol and image, the snake and sword represents life, fertility and wisdom, together with strength, protection, courage and fearlessness. 

Fish sees it as “a metaphor for so many aspects of life, the duality of it, the masculine and feminine, control and chaos.” Standing 9.5 metres high, it is a powerful presence bringing mood and energy as it taps into the universal subconscious. The hilltop pilgrimage gives revellers a place to timeout, to observe the festival from a vantage point that showcases not only the creations below, but the impressive natural landscape and the ocean below.

Hastings’ Creative Communities scheme recognises the value of the opportunity Outfield gives to local artists and has funded three of this years’ major works.

In the Dance Yard arena, everyone’s favourite party artist, Dali Susanto, brings his immediately recognised style into the third dimension. Twin Guardians of the Party rendered in painted ply act as an anchorpoint, a meeting place and a gesture of goodwill and community, watching over the fun.

Joseph Rowntree returns to glass painting with his Manaki Tower, a testimony to the community of beautiful humans who make this festival happen. Painting married with projection adds a digital dimension to Rowntree’s signature figurative work, scratched in relief on the safety glass surface creating a piece as filled with love as the people who work so hard to bring this art to public eyes.

V Hoy also goes 3D and digital with her Forest Guardian, a divine earth deity, suspended 4.5 metres high over the forest entrance. She wants to “bring divinity back to connect with our ancestors and in turn find a reconnection to the earth.” Genderless and universal, the piece gives the illusion of floating in space. By day they have the appearance of an ancient stone sculpture, coming to life at night through the magic of blacklight and VJ animation.

The woods come alive with a collective effort of installation and painting by a collaboration of local artists, the forest fairies. Numerous spaces to interact and play are created making a wonderland for the young and the young at heart.

On the day there will be art in action also. 

Two EIT students, Solomon Bakker and Oriane de Lacey-Tong, will co-create a painting to come alive before festival goers’ eyes on canvas in a forest nook, suspended between mighty oak trees. 

At the live art wall, a variety of styles from diverse characters are showcased. Emerging artist, Ratima Munro paints alongside veteran Bernie Winkels. Returning to the space are the singular talents of Zonny and Waif, along with newcomer to the Outfield community Zac Bridgeman, and a mysterious anonymous graffiti bomber.

A pair of bespoke permanent stages exhibit the confluence of art and construction. In the Art Valley, Richard ‘Dolly’ Klinkhammer, works on his magnum opus, an evolving concept four years in the making and, in his mind, not nearly complete. Made from 90% recycled timber, the piece is a testimony to Dolly’s frugality, his affinity for saving broken things and making them useful and beautiful again.

From its first incarnation, twin lamp posts flanked by a driftwood sculpture, a ship-like stage, Boaty McBoatface, emerges in laminated ply, testimony to Dolly’s affinity with pirates. From there, the gargantuan roof mushroomed into being, designed with practicality and style in mind. It acts as both a shield from the continuously dropping acorns, a feature that Dolly would like to see utilised by a cymbal chandelier (next year’s project?), and creating a sound shell that throws live band audio towards the crowd. Nine structural ribs with curves rendered in black polythene piping were battened in ply and cladded in corrugated iron and bitumen tiles, torched on with butanol. With no straight lines or “squarages” (a Dollyism) and everything scribed, this would be the stuff of nightmares for many uncreative builders, but Dolly pulls together a community of open minded free thinkers whose different styles come together to create something truly unique.

Outfield’s newest stage, the Dance Yard, offers a complete contrast, albeit no less creative. 

Creative builder and artist, Tim Crasborn shares the community’s passion for salvage, for making old things new. He began by making a model from joinery offcuts, in 1:15 scale, as a way to play with the intricate design and to act as a visual aid. The roof having a different pitch front to back makes for some head scratching carpentry. Every rafter has a unique compound angle, but Crasborn admits he loves a tricky build because his finely focused mind loves a challenge. For longevity and structural soundness, the decking, posts and frame were made from tanalised pine. 

For the rest, he used his network to source a range of timbers, many of them natives, a testimony to his love of old hard wood. From tree specialists, Pro Arbore, he was given macrocarpa and Himalayan cedar. From his uncle, established artist and master of salvage, Ricks Terstappen, came the rimu beams. Rescued from old houses, lovingly and painstakingly de-nailed and buzzed up by hand, matai weatherboards add character. Other than what’s in the ground, all Crasborn’s timber is locally sourced and recycled. Bamboo sides and a boat rope rail give a tropical vibe, while off cut copper accents add to the construction’s distinctive feel. Built with rustic chic, the aged materials give character, rendered with breathtaking skill and rigorous exactitude. 

So much time, care and attention, love and skill, community, creativity and camaraderie go into building Outfield. Though festival goers get to immerse themselves in it for just one day, the ripples it makes through the crew of artists and dreamers last long after the event is just a memory.

Photos: Supplied by Outfield

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