Bob Gerrard’s Arks
Sailing around Te Awakairangi
To share this special gift with our community, The Dowse is travelling these arks around Hutt City libraries and hubs. Each ark will spend time at each location, so keep an eye out for when they swap!
Why Noah’s Ark? It’s the oldest story in the world… it’s the greatest story in the world.
- Bob Gerrard
Populated with mermaids, animals, wondrous temples and gardens, each of Bob Gerrard’s arks is its own floating world. Once described by the artist as “Victorian conversation pieces”, Bob’s arks are both sculptures and three-dimensional paintings. Along with their elaborate facades, each ark contains secret paintings to be glimpsed through doors and windows.
Bob began making arks in the 1990s, when a friend asked him to make a Noah’s ark to use as a teaching aid. While Bob was a staunch atheist, he was drawn to the rich narrative of the Bible, especially the story of Noah and the great flood. He undertook meticulous research into historical and mythological narratives, but would freely blur timeframes and locations, once gleefully noting, “An angel on a pushbike with a flat tyre… it’s ridiculous”.
Each ark began with a series of loose scribbles, from which Bob developed a detailed storyboard. In the final stage of planning, he made technical drawings to build a convincing miniature boat using a traditional carvel hull technique, first used in shipbuilding in the 14th century. The boats were built in his shed but brought inside his house to be painted, where Bob declared the top of the fridge the perfect height for a working table. Neighbourhood children were invited over to give feedback as Bob believed that they gave the most honest response.
Born in Glasgow, Bob trained as a carpenter and emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1950s, where he married and settled in Upper Hutt. He began painting as a hobby in the early 1960s but it wasn’t until he retired that he became more dedicated to his practice: making nearly 50 arks, and many more paintings. When Bob died, his family donated six of these wonderful works of art to our collection.
IN THE MEDIA
Arks set sail, Annabella Gamboni, Regional News, 19 March 2019