Netherlands Chamber Choir Photo: Foppe Schut
The 150 Psalms Project
As part of the ambitious 150 Psalms project initiated by the Netherlands Chamber Choir capturing all 150 psalms composed by 150 individual composers over a span of 500 years, Helen was commissioned by the NZ Festival of the Arts 2020 to write Psalm 15 Adonai mi yagur, premiered at the Adelaide Arts Festival and New Zealand Premiered at the NZ Festival in Wellington a week later. A review of the work can be viewed here.
Carving Water, Painting Voice
Helen created an installation with artist Kazu Nakagawa, Carving Water, Painting Voice, for the 2017 HEADLAND Sculpture on the Gulf event—a popular public sculpture trail around the Matiatia/Church Bay headland of Waiheke Island, which ran January-February 2017. This work was aquired by New Zealand Maritime Museum into its permanent collection. The collaboration has been extended with additional contributions—poetry by Riemke Ensing and topologies by A. Caldwell—for exhibition at the Museum's Edmiston Gallery from November 2018 to the end of March 2019.
Carving Water, Painting Voice is based around a Niuean Vaka (outrigger canoe) restored by Kazu that sits in a bed of paddles created by him. The work evokes migrations past and present—a poignant topic in light of the Syrian exodus—the movement of refugees and explorers. It contemplates how an infusion of new stories has changed the way we see ourselves as New Zealanders in a world that now has fewer borders. Helen, aided by Ku Nakagawa, recorded stories and songs of displacement in the native languages of immigrants and travellers, weaving them into a sonic bed for the sculpture. A short film on the making of the work can be viewed here.
Immersed in Art
From mid January to April 2016, Helen was living and working at Auckland's Pah Homestead as the Wallace Arts Trust Artist in Residence. The Pah, an historic home turned art gallery located in Hillsborough, houses the James Wallace Art Trust's collection—a magnificent slice of New Zealand art featuring more than 8000 contemporary works. The purpose of this residency was to develop a work for, and in collaboration with, the Ace Brass Trio and to create a solo trumpet piece—in memoriam for Jack Body—for Huw Dann (trumpet).
The Sound Sculpture Crossed Wires was officially opened as a permanent exhibition at Connells Bay Sculpture Park, Waiheke Island on 16 January, 2016. Crossed Wires is a collaborative work by Helen Bowater (sound) and Sharonagh Montrose (visual) and was initially created for the 2015 HEADLAND Sculpture on the Gulf event, a public sculpture trail around the Matiatia/Church Bay headland of Waiheke Island, which ran for three weeks in January and attracted more than 55,000 visitors.
The work features a set of wooden structures (resembling the tops of buried telephone poles, suggesting string instrument bridges) with white wires running across them, from which sound emanates. Connells Bay holds the private sculpture collection of John and Jo Gow and is open to public viewing by appointment.
A Chat with Radio NZ's Tim Dodd about the influence and legacy of Douglas Lilburn on Helen's music and on New Zealand music in general.