Virginia King attended Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland and Chelsea Art School, Hammersmith, London. She now lives and works in Auckland. Sculpture became her preferred art form in the early 1980s. She has worked in Hinuera stone, bronze, aluminium, stainless steel, earth and wood. Her practice is underpinned by environmental concerns, a passion for words and an interest in history and micro-organisms.
Over the past 30 years King has created a diverse range of site specific sculpture, commissioned for both public locations and private collectors. She creates both ephemeral works, which offer a fleeting experience, and permanent works. Though primarily working with abstract forms King created a figurative work of the writer Katherine Mansfield for Wellington’s Lambton Quay. Entitled Woman of Words (2013) it feature words and lines from Mansfield’s stories, journals and letters, laser cut in sheet steel which was formed into a dressed figure. Light was a strong symbol in Mansfield’s work; aptly King’s homage to the writer is lit from within and offers a different experience from day to night.
In fact, the written word features frequently in King’s artwork. Floating land - Rising Seas (2009) created during the Artist and Writer's Symposium at Lake Cootharaba, Noosa, Australia, comprised twelve hand cut word-strings which were floated in the lake, across the land and in the air to allude to the lake’s history, Aboriginal and colonial history and written culture. For this ephemeral work the artist assembled phrases that referenced past and present loss, environmental neglect, global warming, the plunder of the oceans, rising sea levels, endangered coral reefs and storm wreckage. King explains, “The objective of these works is to bring to the attention of the viewer, the fragility of our environment, and the global need for stewardship and conservation.”
Interactive public commissions include the Rewarewa Creek Footbridge, 1995 and Aramarama Millennium Footbridge, Mission Bay, Auckland in 2000; Koru and Raupo Rattler (2001) at Brick Bay, Matakana, Northland; Oioi Bridge (2002) at Connells Bay Centre for Sculpture, and Tower of Words - Tower of Silence, 2003 at Omaru Bay, Waiheke Island.
Other public commissions include the David Lange Memorial in Otahuhu, Auckland in 2008 and Hinaki Guardian, a six metre high sculpture on the Hobsonville Wharf in 2013. Her works feature in international public sculpture collections: Pacific Star (1998) and Colony at the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia; Limpet Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu; Limpet-Shrine (1998), Singapore Tourism Bureau (which won the Jane Campion Memory Award at Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney); Leaf, Frond and Coral at the University of Singapore; and Reed Vessel (2004) an eighteen metre sculpture installation, Docklands Public Art Walk, Melbourne.
Locally King exhibits at Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island, where she has received the Peoples Choice Award three times; and has participated in The Fifth Goodman-Suter Contemporary Art Project: The Maui Dynasty in Nelson in 2008. Internationally, she has exhibited at Kaohsiung Museum, Taiwan in 2009; Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi in 2010; Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, Perth in 2011; and the October Gallery in Bloomsbury, London in 2011.
King has participated in several international sculpture symposia and enjoyed a number of artist residencies here in New Zealand and abroad, including on Big Island, Hawaii in 2011. The Antarctic Artist Fellowship in 1999 saw King collaborate with scientists at Cape Evans who provided images of diatoms, which are the algae at the beginning of the food chain. These images informed King’s Antarctic Heart series. She continues to reference various marine micro-organisms, corals and foraminifera in her work. Her vessel forms become symbols of exploration and migration, of nurturing and protection, of life and survival.