Monday, October 26, 2015

Glyph Totem

I feel like I'm back in the groove...

As you probably know I went art AWOL for a while and pursued my love for bicycles instead. Of late I've been trying to fit back into the land art groove once again but it seems I don't fit properly as I'd become all cyclist shaped.

But now autumn's coming so the groove has widened to accommodate me whatever shape I have become.

Since I was so prolific I moved house and I haven't acquired the depth of knowledge of what is growing and where, the location of really good thorns and where I can find vibrant colours to enrich my palette.

My art developed while I lived in my previous home and I learnt to use the materials that I found around there and so they became fundamental to my style of art. Dogwood, berberis thorns, reed grass and dark mud were all mainstays of my techniques. But where I am now it is more difficult. There are less public spaces and quiet woods in which I can trespass without being disturbed but instead there are many gardens that tantalise me with views of plants I wish to use but I'm not exactly going to help myself.

There are quite a number of trees that I regularly monitor to see what autumn will produce. I didn't move far away from where I used to live so I took a trip over there today to see what is going on with my favourite trees and to start to get my head together for all the colours this season will bring.

There are two particular maple trees that regularly produce the best leaves. One of them produces unique strong orange colours I've not seen elsewhere, it starts early and always begins on the top of one side of the tree, changes that whole side before the rest follows on and sure enough when I went there today that is exactly what was beginning. The other is a Norwegian Maple and it produces very strongly coloured and clean red leaves. When I visited that tree there was no colour other than green present.

There are two cherry trees in the local cemetery and the first time I worked with it's autumn colours the range was immense, every possible hue I have ever seen present in leaves, they were such a thrill to work with and yet every year since it has never happened again.

On my tour I went to visit a place very near to my old house where I made several sculptures, often harvested dogwood stems and had planted a small Rowan tree that had taken seed in a plant pot in the garden. Oh my how had it changed!

It was totally overgrown, so much so I couldn't get anywhere near the plants I used to use a lot, it was utterly impenetrable, I was amazed how much it had changed but also fascinated to see the power of nature in a place I knew so well.

As I was unable to collect some dogwood I went to another place where I knew a load of it grew and with it the leaves often turned a profusion of purple. Having not been there for a while I was excited to see what I would find.

And what did I find? A new housing estate that's what!

Sometimes I go foraging and then return to base to create something out of what I collected. When I knew where all my favourite materials grew if I needed something I hadn't collected to bring the sculpture together then I could nick off and get some. Where I live now I have to be more resourceful.

The core of the sculpture is a Cotinus coggygria stem (AKA Royal Purple) and I collected it near to where I live now. As it started to come together I knew I would need to support it on some sort of frame but where was I going to get suitable materials from?

I grabbed my rucksack, tucked my trousers into my socks and got on my bike to go hunt. I headed towards the shore as I knew reed grass grew down there and pedalled on my way.

It didn't take long to find what I wanted and soon I was scooting back to base.

It was at this point that I knew I was back in my groove. Just picture the scene:-

Guy on bike clutching a four foot bushel of reed grass in one hand whilst pedaling furiously somewhere or other.

Oh how I'd missed this eccentricity. Looks strange to anyone looking but I just didn't care as I know what I will produce will turn out right. And why does that feel so good? Because when I am not acting eccentrically, when I am just trying to be normal so no-one notices me I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, that everyone's gaze is boring into me.

But here I am acting strangely and everyone really is staring and deservedly so! And I don't care! So liberating to be slotting back into that groove.

This whole mission is now carrying it's own momentum, the sculpture is making itself, I'm not thinking about how it should be and somehow when that happens certain things just click into place. I don't know how, I can't intentionally make it happen but when it does it is very satisfying.

"This does seem to be going very well? Have you forgotten how difficult it is to keep these ephemeral sculptures held together long enough to take it's picture? Errm, yes I think I have.2

I set off look for some evening sun, these installations come alive when back-lit after all. I'm rolling along on the buzz of good sculpture and in my excitement I'm careless and clumsy.

First I snap the reed grass frame and have to make a little repair, I tell myself to be more careful.

I clamber through the undergrowth looking for a suitable camera spot and spy one just ahead. I set up my camera ready so that the significant breeze doesn't have too long once I erect the sculpture to tear leaves and upset the composition.

Err, where has the sculpture gone? I was carrying it on top of a bit of cardboard and it seems to have disappeared!

A bit panicky I retrace my steps and find it hiding in the undergrowth and very gratefully I see it is still, mostly, intact.

I make a few more repairs and just pray that I haven't pushed it over the edge.

As is usual I chase the sun across the forest floor and re-erect the sculpture in multiple places as it only stays lit up for a minute at a time before the sunlight moves to another spot.

As I set it in a good spot it comes alive just for that moment and brings together the materials, that time, that place and the rays of the sun to finally, become complete.

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