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Any day now: Sculptor Richard Wells with his piece, dubbed 'Zarathustra Splash', which will be installed in the Queenstown Gardens any day

By TRACEY ROXBURGh

A new sculpture being installed in the Queenstown Gardens any day now’s been a labour of love for its creator.

Renowned sculptor Richard Wells — who considers himself a resort local — has been working on ‘Zarathustra Splash’ for two years after it was selected by the Queenstown Lakes District Art and Culture Trust, formerly known as the Aspiring Arts and Culture Trust, from 19 expressions of interest in 2018.

Initially pegged as a ‘‘giant labrador’’, the end result’s actually a hybrid of four K9 models — a lab, a griffon-Tibetan spaniel cross, a griffon and a border collie, the latter used specifically for its leaping abilities.

‘‘We decided to do bits of all sorts of dogs so people, when they look at it, they don’t just see one breed.’’

And, while it was originally planned to be ‘‘twice life-sized’’, the new puppy’s now 100 times the size of an actual dog.

‘‘We wanted to over-deliver and I think we have, which is great,’’ Wells says. or 18 months he worked on it seven days a week, laboriously creating first a plasticine mould in his backyard from which to cast the bronze sculpture in his Auckland foundry.

While he’d normally use clay, the summer the mould was being made was so hot that kept cracking.

It took so much plasticine, his wife, Nicky, ended up finding a recipe and started making it at home herself.

Once the plasticine version was complete, Wells used that to create the 22 different wax moulds, which were then used to cast the bronze and ultimately welded together to create the finished product.

Tipping the scales at 850kg, the heaviest part of the pooch is his head, weighing in at 70kg.

Splash was shipped from Auckland before the Covid-19 lockdown — initially it was planned for installation in March.

Now Wells is expecting him to be in his permanent home, suspended in a Gardens pond, between the rotunda and bowling club, within the next week or two.

And then they’ll start looking to give him a new name.

The name Wells has given him harks back to the philosophy, ‘‘if you don’t go through hardship in life, you can’t actually then appreciate happiness’’.

‘‘That’s what it means to me.

‘‘If you don’t climb the mountain yourself, you don’t get the exhilaration from doing it.’’

Wells says the art and culture trust is running a competition to give the puppy a permanent, name — details of that will be announced in due course, but the winner will get a miniature version of the sculpture to keep.

It’s the first public sculpture Wells has in Queenstown, and the second in New Zealand — his other piece, ‘Resting Soldier’, is in Papakura’s Memorial Gardens — while he also has works in galleries across the country and in the permanent collection at Te Papa Tongarewa, in Wellington.

City Hall arts and events facilitator Jan Maxwell says the trust’s ‘‘really excited’’ to see the sculpture installed for Queenstowners to enjoy.

‘‘This is one of our more community-focused art works … it’s a little bit quirky, it’s a little bit different … it’s fun, and I think that’s what we all need right now.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz