Jane Downes

Jane Downes, Habitat, 2022

Rusted steel, colour acrylic, solar powered LED light fittings. 2400 x 1200 x 1200mm.

Habitat is inspired in equal parts by coastal settlements, towering city apartment complexes and insect and mollusc colonies. The work, which viewers are encouraged to enter, explores the contrasts and continuities between such built and natural environments, highlighting interplays between exposure and protection and individuality and community.

It presents cohabitation as inevitably double-edged. Each unit is dependent on the whole, which offers security yet requires conformity, and inside the structure, the viewer might equally feel sheltered from the elements or claustrophobic.

Jane Downes has balanced these competing feelings but ultimately tips the scales towards the benefits of dwelling together. With acrylic windows inset on all sides of the structure, which filter light and suffuse the interior space with prismatic, shifting colours, she creates an immersive kaleidoscope that hints toward unthought (and potentially miraculous) ways of collective living.


Lives and works in Little River, Banks Peninsula.

Jane Downes comes to sculpture from several years practising as a cartographer and draughtsperson. Her knowledge of architecture and spatial design informs her present work, which maintains a relationship to and interest in the built environment, yet engages with unconventional forms, materials, and ideas to propose new conceptions of ‘liveability’.

She holds a Bachelor of Design majoring in Sculpture/3D Design from Christchurch Polytechnic, which she completed in 2001. She is a regular participant in many of Aotearoa’s major public sculpture exhibitions, including Sculpture in the Gardens, NZ Sculpture Onshore and Sculpture on the Peninsula.

She currently lives in Little River where she and her husband Mario, an engineer, frequently collaborate.