Denis O’Connor

Denis O’Connor

Lucken’s Wing, 2024, hardwood Meranti plytech, metal, paint, and slate

Courtesy Two Rooms, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

A meticulously restored, custom-painted Harley Pocket-Rocket bicycle rests on a launch pad—a four-metre-long carpenter’s slate pencil—whose tip points up, out, and across the gulf, towards Hauturu/Little Barrier Island, like a stunt ramp or rocket launcher. Lucken’s Wing is Denis O’Connor’s tribute to backyard tinkerers and jacks-of-all-trades, and recalls a vibrant culture of amateur motoring on Waiheke. In the 1930s and 1940s, the island was host to the Waiheke TT Races, where motorbikes would race around Onetangi Loop Road (then paved only with shingle). Until the 1990s, one would often see jerry-built handcarts and tandem or trailer contraptions making their way around the Island. O’Connor commemorates those anonymous dreamers without degrees or industrial resources who dsigned their dream vehicles on the back of envelopes and realised them using hand tools and scavenged materials, operating on nothing but a ‘wing and a prayer’, as the text on one side of his pencil-ramp reads. `

Denis O’Connor (b.1947) is a long-time Waiheke Island resident and a Sculpture on the Gulf regular. In the mid-1960s, he studied at Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, and, a decade later, spent time in California studying contemporary ceramic sculpture. He works with stone and ceramics, found objects and text. Antipodean and Irish literary histories have informed his work, allowing him to explore his own biography, heritage, and cultural identity. In 1985, he was Frances Hodgkins Fellow at Otago University; in 1996, Moet et Chandon Fellow in Champagne, France; in 2005, Rathcoola Fellow in Cork, Ireland; and, in 2018, Blumhardt Foundation Resident, in Gulgong, Australia. He has received funding from the QEII Arts Council and Creative New Zealand for project residencies in Kyoto, in 1982; Pietrasanta, Italy, in 1988; and Marseilles, in 1999. Recent projects include his 2023 solo show Lucken’s Margin, at Two Rooms, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.