Saturday, May 23, 2009

Triple Leaf Triangles

It's been a strange week.

Last weekend I felt I'd lost my mojo. I tried several sculptures on the Saturday, I had the ideas, but not the willpower to carry them through. And on Sunday we went to the beach and I did some rock balancing, but they all fell down before I could get any photos. Disappointed we skulked home with nothing to show for it. After such a long period being so prolific I felt a little lost. I started a new job this week - more hours, more stress, more travelling, more responsibility. It seemed that I didn't have energy for both work and play.

I think I had reached saturation point and couldn't even think about land art despite having lots of editing of my book to do and land art always being my solace. I was worried.

My art has a large element of luck associated with it. Very fragile pieces hanging together long enough to be photoed, the light in the right place and time and so on. These things, up to now, just seem to come together for me. I don't why or how. It just seems to work. Without any
knowledge of how this formula is put together, when it ceased to be and I had no clue what to do.

I guess inspiration needs some freedom, needs some space to reveal itself and the pressure I felt was not allowing it any room. It can't be forced I would have to wait until it was ready.

As I awoke this morning this is how I felt. I knew I wanted to make something, what I didn't know (well I rarely do know, it just seems to happen) but now I wasn't confident anything would come.

So I went for a stroll around the park. And this was when I realised what was missing. It doesn't matter what I do, how I do it or what I end up with. I do this because there is joy for me in a little flower, or a beautiful leaf. Through a connection with nature I find myself.

As I walked around the park my mojo started to return. The beautiful plants and trees thrilled my senses and once more I cared not about any worries and strifes.

There are two wonderful copper beech trees in Williamson Park. Massive and majestic and their leaves are exquisite. I looked at the colours and the veins in the leaves and was enthralled. This is what it is all about. To feel such pleasure through looking at a leaf, how delicate and colourful they are. A joy to hold in your hand. My land art has always been purely about this. About the pleasure of constructing something from natures wonderful creations and trying to take a few steps into that world, to feel more part of it, connected and at one with the world.

It isn't about creating nice photos or other people enjoying my work. These are all secondary to how it feels. And without that feeling I can't make anything worthwhile, take interesting pictures or expect any appreciation. I had to lose that feeling to discover actually what it is. If I try to make things people like it doesn't work. It has to come from the heart and from deep within in or else it isn't what it is supposed to be.

All the attention I have got recently meant I wandered off that path but now I have come full circle. It is important to keep your feet on the ground and be true to yourself as that is where the best things about you come from. But it has taken all the kind words from dozens and dozens of people to have made me see where some of the answers I have been looking for are. For that I will always be grateful.

I took some of those copper beech leaves, some maple and some horse chestnut and set about making something, exactly what and how didn't matter.

The sun did not show itself until late afternoon so I waited and waited and the muggy air meant the leaves did not wilt. But with the sun came the wind and once again I embarked on a battle to take a photo before the elements destroyed it. And this is when I was sure my inexplicable luck returned. As I got it ready I laughed to myself and said "why do insist on making things so flipping fragile?! I must be mad!" and as I thought this two of the triangles fell apart completely and off the frame. I didn't think this sculpture was much good anyway and as I waited for the sun to come out I expected the photos to be binned. It didn't worry me though as I enjoyed making it and was completely absorbed in the process, and that was what it was all about.

Finally the sun did come out and the colours revealed themselves and the three together were just right. The other two triangles would have spoilt the balance so they seemed destined to not make it to the final cut. Was this a coincidence, a fluke or all part of the inututive process?

Who knows? But without the luck I get when things are going well my sculptures would be a poor imitation of what they can be.

Born lucky? Yes I think so.


ArtPropelled said...

This is such a great post Richard. I know the feeling. We all need reminders to stay true to ourselves. It's quite easy to lose the plot. I do believe in creative intuition though at times I need to remind myself about that too.
Your sun trapped leaf sculptures are well worth the battles with the elements. They are glorious!

Richard Shilling said...

Thanks very much Robyn. I am often introspective and I think that is where my love for nature comes from. Despite its ups and downs life is rarely boring!


Teri said...

What I am interested in is this: do you take anything with you to help with the process? (string, thread, twine, anything?) Because if not, how do you find everything just right there that will hold everything together? It looks as if it is hand-sewn on to the frame and quite remarkable.

Richard Shilling said...

Hi Teri. I occasionally use tools, normally just a knife but often nothing - just my hands.

I don't use any non-natural materials at all - either for the construction or the sculpture itself. I.e. I don't hold it together with string while constructing it to take it off later. I use only what I find round and about where I am making it and that is a big part of the point for me. I want to find out what can be made with only natural materials and I get a thrill from making something flimsy and ephemeral yet still manage to keep it together long enough to get a photo (although I only get a thrill after I get the photo - before that it is all stress and panic)! And I like to surprise people and make them doubt that I only use natural materials! ;-) I am always trying to think of new ideas and ways of making things so that it might be difficult to tell how I did it. Some of the spheres and cubes I've made recently were hopefully in that vein.

This sculpture involves a lot of thorns but is still very flimsy. I used strips of willow to make the twine to hold the triangles on. I've only just started experimenting with that material so I have a lot to learn there. I've used thorns a lot so I could write a book about the different varieties of thorns (you'd be surprised how much there is to know about thorns)! There is lots of trial and error involved and you need to be persistent but I have learnt enough to make it work out eventually these days. If there are any doubters out there I would gladly make something in front of you to show you that I don't cheat!

Thanks for looking in.


DJ said...

Please tell me you're keeping copious notes so that we may have the pleasure of reading your book, someday...preferably, before I'm using a walker or wheelchair...

Richard Shilling said...

I am working on two at the moment (well three actually). I hope to have the first one out in a couple of months and the second later in the year. Watch this space!