Guy Ngan: Reserve Bank, 1972

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Taiaha
Medium: Bronze with integrated lighting system
Dimensions: Approx. height 9.14m (30ft), weight 1180kg (2600lb). Exact dimensions & weight unknown
Date: 1972
Original location: Reserve Bank, 2 The Terrace, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington CBD
Architect: Ministry of Works
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: TBC

In 1970 Guy Ngan left his job with the architectural firm Stephenson & Turner to focus solely on his arts practice. It was in this year that the Reserve Bank ran a competition to select a sculpture for the exterior wall of its new head office. Ngan entered Taiaha and won the competition.

Taiaha is made of 50 interlocking parts and weighs more than one tonne. For Ngan, the work represented the bank’s solidity and strength, symbolised by the inclusion of two stylised taiaha (Māori weapons used in ceremonial challenges and, historically, in battle). An article in 1972 noted that this work was the biggest bronze sculpture mounted in Wellington since the War Memorial horse and rider.

Guy Ngan: National Bank Gisborne, 1969

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Pacific Voyages (Cook Bicentenary Mural)
Medium: New Zealand timber and bronze, mounted on cork
Dimensions: Approx. 5.6 square metres (60 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown
Date: 1969
Original location: National Bank Gisborne Branch, 31-35 Gladstone Rd, Tairāwhiti Gisborne
Architect: TBC
Current location: Held by a private collector in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Heritage status: TBC

This work was the result of Ngan winning the 1969 National Bank Mural Award: his second win in a row after his successful entry into the 1968 competition which resulted in the work “Habitation” being installed in National Bank’s head offices in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.

Installed in October 1969 as part of the Cook Bicentenary celebrations, the mural depicts the paths of Cook’s voyages around the Pacific. A timber map sits on a cork background, and a coin-like bronze medallion depicting Cook presides over the scene.

As reported by The Gisborne Herald on 7 October 1969, the judges commented “This artist again reveals his outstanding ability to produce a forceful design tempered with elegance and charm.” 

Guy Ngan: National Bank Head Office, 1968

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Habitation
Medium: Wood and cork wall sculpture
Dimensions: Approx. 6 square metres (65 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown
Date: 1968 (building opened in 1970)
Original location: National Bank Head Office, 170-186 Featherston St, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, CBD
Architect: TBC
Current location: Ngan noted the work as being “destroyed” in April 2000
Heritage status: n/a

This mural was the result of Ngan winning the 1968 National Bank mural award. He won again in 1969 and 1971.

Guy Ngan: ANZ Queen St Branch, 1964

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Q & V Mural
Medium: Glass mosaic tiles
Dimensions: Approx. 244 square metres (800 sq ft). Exact dimensions unknown.
Date: 1964 (elsewhere dated 1960, but the building opened in October 1964).
Original location: Rear wall, banking chamber, ANZ Bank, corner of Queen & Victoria Sts (203A Queen St), Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland CBD.
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Unknown, possibly painted over.
Heritage status: n/a

Ngan’s large mural design for the ANZ Bank Queen St covered a two-story high wall in the public banking chamber. It was also his final public artwork executed in mosaic glass tiles.

Guy Ngan: Government Printing Office, 1966

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Painted concrete relief
Dimensions: Area approx 93 m² / 1,000 ft²
Date: 1966
Original location: Back of Government Printing Office, 10 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington (work viewable from Thorndon Quay)
Architect: F.G.F Sheppared, Ministry of Works, Architectural Division
Current location: In situ. Building now occupied by Archives NZ.
Heritage status: TBC

The Government Printing Office (later Archives New Zealand) was officially opened in 1966 by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. A project by the Ministry of Work’s Architectural Division, the build was overseen by Government Architect F.G.F. Sheppard (1959-71). Ngan worked for the division from 1956-1960, after which point he moved to architects Stephenson & Turner. It is possible he designed the work before departing the ministry.

The building has frontages on two streets that taper to a point. To accommodate this, the building is primarily a long rectangle facing Mulgrave Street with a smaller attached wedge-shaped block facing Thorndon Quay.

Ngan’s mural, with its geometric vertical elements, disrupts the horizontal, windowless length of the building, while also providing a graceful visual link between the larger building and the wedge. Taking up an entire wall, the inch-deep shapes are painted a dramatic grey and white.

In 1989 the Government Print building was sold to the Department of Internal Affairs to house Archives New Zealand.

Guy Ngan: Dunedin Dental School Lecture Hall, 1957

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Two murals, both ceramic tile and concrete
Dimensions: Approx 800 sq. ft. / 74 m²
Date: 1957
Original location: Lecture Hall exterior, Dunedin Dental School, University of Otago, 35 Frederick St, Dunedin Ōtepoti
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Government Architect, Ministry of Works
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: TBC

Ngan’s murals for the Dunedin Dental School Lecture Hall exterior were completed the same year as the Engineering School Lecture Hall exterior at Canterbury University in nearby Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Two murals were completed: one at each end of the building. Both still exist.

They are said to have been made with recycled broken tiles.

A geometric mosaic tile mural featuring bands and rectangles in greys, with orange and yellow accents, 1987

Guy Ngan: Broadcasting House/Bowen State Building linkblock, 1957

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Mosaic tiles
Dimensions: Approx. 12m in length
Date: 1957
Original location: Broadcasting House and Bowen State Building linkblock, Pipitea, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Ministry of Works Architectural Division
Current location: Destroyed
Heritage status: n/a

Guy Ngan’s mosaic tile mural for the linkblock between the Bowen State Building and Broadcasting House was designed and completed at a similar time to the Bledisloe State Building.

As Ken Davis notes, “Both the Bowen State Building and Broadcasting House were designed to form an architecturally harmonious whole and were separated by a sunken court and then linked by a canopy and mural faced wall. The mural consisted of abstract patterns of brightly coloured ceramic tiles and seemed inspired by modern abstract art.”

Colour-blocks in a range of greys, yellow and orange filled an entire wall and provided a backdrop for generous plantings.

Sadly, this work is no longer. Broadcasting House was demolished in 1997, and it is likely this mural was destroyed at the same time.

A geometric mosaic tile mural featuring bands and rectangles in greys, with orange and yellow accents, 1987
Image: Ken Davis, 1987

Guy Ngan: Bledisloe State Building Penthouse, 1956

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Glass mosaic tiles
Dimensions: North & south faces: H3000mm x W6500mm; east and west faces: H3000mm x W12600mm.
Date: 1956
Original location: Penthouse, Bledisloe State Building, Bledisloe Lane, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland CBD
Architect: Gordon Wilson, Ministry of Works Architectural Division
Current location: In situ. Building now occupied by Auckland Council.
Heritage status: Considered item, listed by Auckland Council

Guy Ngan’s mosaic frieze for the Bledisloe State Building was completed in 1956. An advertisement from the time states that “the mosaic tiles were supplied and fixed to this penthouse tower by the skilled tradesmen of the wall and floor tiling division of J. H. M. Carpenter Ltd of Newmarket, Auckland.”

This mosaic later inspired artist Julian Dashper to create his painting Guy Ngan Mural, Bledisloe State Building, Auckland City, 1987. On the topic of this work, Dashper said: “I found Ngan’s mural interesting for a number of reasons – partly because as a kid my Dad worked in the building and so every Friday night I’d go and goof off in the building with the big mural – I was aware then that it was a big piece of art – an enormous work.” (Source: unknown. Copy included in Guy Ngan: Scrapbook number one. Auckland: Ron Sang, 2010, p.41).

Guy Ngan: Eastern & Central Savings Bank, 1980

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Cityscape
Medium: Cast aluminium with spot and concealed lighting
Dimensions: H1400 x W6000 x D200mm
Date: 1980
Original location: Public banking hall, Eastern and Central Savings Bank, Broadway Avenue, Te Papaioea Palmerston North
Architect: Milton Brogden
Current location: Exterior wall Palmerston North City Library, above George Street steps.
Heritage status: Listed by Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust

Cityscape was originally commissioned in 1980 by the Eastern and Central Savings Bank for their Broadway Avenue premises. The sculpture was made from cast aluminium using the ‘lost polystyrene’ process involving carved polystyrene which dissolved during casting. The pieces were then interlocked and bolted together.

When the building was sold, the six-meter long work was too large for the redeveloped interior so was put into storage in a garage/shed as an asset of the then building owner. There it sat for some years until Fran Dibble (wife of sculptor Paul Dibble) rediscovered it following research. It was subsequently donated to the Palmerston North Sculpture Trust by the descendants of J.J. Waldegrave. With the assistance of the Central Energy Trust, the Guardian Trust and the Palmerston North City Library it was re-sited in 2008 to an exterior wall of the Palmerston North City Library above the George St steps.

Joan Calvert & Guy Ngan: The Beehive, 1976

Artist: Joan Calvert & Guy Ngan
Title: Forest in the sun
Medium: Woollen wall-hanging (knotted wool on backing)
Dimensions: H7200 x W9600mm (each panel 2400mm square)
Date: 1976 (building officially opened in 1977)
Original location: Ground floor stairwell, Executive Wing, The Beehive, Parliament, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington
Architect: Sir Basil Spence/Government Architects, Ministry of Works and Development
Current location: Collection of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand
Heritage status: No known protection

A group of New Zealand’s leading weavers (fifteen in total) were invited to provide a submission for a wall-hanging for the main entrance foyer of the new wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, colloquially known as “The Beehive”. Forest in the Sun (1976) was chosen. The huge work was the remarkable achievement of a collaboration between respected Wellington fibre-artist, Joan Calvert who interpreted and translated into fibre a concept and design by Wellington sculptor and designer, Guy Ngan.

The commission was for the large centrepiece marble wall beside the main stairwell that led from the ground to first floor. Calvert approached Ngan to design a work that would respond to the Beehive’s architecture and the collaboration produced a huge hanging consisting of six adjacent panels, each 2.4 metres square, in a horizontal T-shape. It was the largest project Calvert had ever undertaken.

Bursting with colour, the woollen wall-hanging was intended to evoke the experience of walking through native bush and looking up through a canopy of trees to be dazzled the sunlight filtering down. Circular gaps within the panels exposed the Carrara marble of the wall behind.

The design perfectly addressed its subject, while taking into consideration the site restrictions. The hanging while needing to be of a large-scale could not be heavy and needed to fit the curve of the marble surface of the central wall. As a result, Forest in the Sun is in six parts, suspended from narrow, flat aluminium bars that bend to hug the curving wall. The cell-like holes help to meet the weight requirements while referencing the organic matter and sunlight. Other considerations included the need for the yarns to be colourfast and durable. For Joan Calvert there was an additional responsibility, proving the validity of weaving as an art form.

The piece took 18 months to make. The process included the design and scale drawing, yarn dying, knotting and hanging. With the scale of the work, Calvert enlisted the help of two other weavers, Dorothea Turner and Jean Ngan, who both undertook the labourious process of knotting two panels each over eight months in 1976 to complete the work. In February 1977, the work was hung in readiness for the formal opening of the building.

In 2003, when the Beehive was being refurbished the monumental work was removed and the government donated it to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.