Issues as diverse as the demise of the freezing works in New Zealand, sheep as a Christian and New Zealand icon, and the imposition of trade tariffs by the USA, are raised in an installation by sculptor Robert Jahnke. The Palmerston North artist’s work, which featured recently on television's The Big Art Trip, has worked in lead sheeting to create Alpha Omega at Manukau City’s te tuhi-the mark.
The installation features a lamb carcass formed from lead sheeting, flanked by suspended ‘Abattoir whites’ (hard hat, apron, gumboots, pouch, knife and steel) also sheathed in lead. The ‘Abattoir whites’ are hung in steel and glass cabinets. Tanks in the centre of the space feature ‘souvenir’ sheep covered in steel wool. On the wall, oval-shaped reliefs are hung that incorporate images, neon symbols and words.
Alpha Omega is layered in meaning, using the sheep as a symbol for New Zealand, as well as Christianity and colonisation, while at the same time focusing on contemporary issues relating to the economic hardships created by US trade tariffs as well as the current use by young British artists of actual dead animals in art. In each instance, Jahnke asks viewers to consider what dies and is sacrificed in the worldwide battle to control resources. Jahnke says that the objective of the installation is to “create new work that has currency across a range of issues pertinent to Aotearoa New Zealand and its international links.”
'Alpha Omega' exhibition card, 2001
'Artist uses meatworks gear to create records of a golden age', The National Business Review, 2001
'Lamb to slaughter and Lamb of God', New Zealand Herald, 27-08-2001