Saturday, June 27, 2009

3 Framed Rowans

3 Framed Rowans, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

The sun shined on me and my leaves once again.

It is very, very humid here today. When I peeped through the curtains first thing it was bright and clear and windless. After a warm but windy week I thought I might have the opportunity to play with leaves and light without everything being destroyed in seconds.

I love rowan leaves. Whenever I see a rowan I admire the elegance of it's little leaves and how they grow symmetrically from their tender, red stems. I've only ever done anything with the berries despite searching for coloured leaves many times. All the trees that were accessible to me had leaves that went from green to brown, desicated and shrivelled with no intermediate colourful stages. I have long admired Andy Goldsworthy's coloured rowan leaves around a hole sculpture but could never find any similar leaves. I pondered whether those that he found were from a very special year. Finally I did find some trees in full colour but they were all in the street and their leaves too easily blew away when they landed onto tarmac so there were never enough left for me to collect. But still I am fascinated with the shape of their leaves.

When I finally got out of bed it had completely clouded over and looked set in for the day. If this was going to be a dull day then I would need to change plan and focus simply on the shape of the leaves themselves.

As is my normal style I constructed little frames from stems of grass and pinned them all together with thorns and included a little cross strut to keep it square. Then I pinned out each leaf to show it's form. I chose three different trees to pick leaves from. A large well established tree, a medium sized bush and a small sapling from which I took the smallest leaf so as not to adversely affect it. Each had a different green hue reflecting each tree's age and maturity.

This was all going swimmingly well. Merrily pinning everything together with a light wind, this wasn't going to take too long to complete. Or so I thought.

The dull, leaden skies were joined by towering storm clouds and the wind started to whip up. I needed to get on with this and be quick or else the elements would undo all the meticulous effort. I took one long stem of grass and attempted to pin each frame along it's length.

The first one went on fine, the second one fell apart almost immediately. And then, much like someone sawing through a branch that they are sitting on, I chopped through the grass stem and dropped two of the frames onto the floor disloding all the thorns. Curses!

The process of making the really ephemeral sculptures is like paddling down a gentle wide river. Everything starts off calmly but then mountain walls start to constrict the river and it becomes less wide and gathers speed and power, soon the current has taken hold of you and you have reached the point of no return. You either paddle on hoping you will reach the end or abandon all hope.

Well of course that is a bit over-dramatic but the analogy holds. In the final stages of making something very fragile there is a critical point when everything gets assembled together. Any over-zealousness can send you into a spiral when some small part breaks and your attempt to fix that part destroys another and on it snowballs. The luck is in getting it all to hold together long enough to capture it's most vital moment and that is often just before it collapses completely.

And so this is how it was with this. As I tried to fix each of them to the long stem things started to fall apart. Swearing under my breath and cursing myself again with the oft repeated words "why do I have to make everything so damn fragile? I must be mad!" Yet I keep on doing it again and again. Despite the stress of funnelling down the gorge towards the rapids when you do make it to the other side with everthing intact and that vital moment is captured then you can feel justly satisfied.

Finally I had everything ready and set up my camera and started to click away, the leaden skies were still with us, no chances of the sun appearing. As I clicked away I noticed that I had made a fundamental mistake. The right hand leaf was set against something the same colour and without any contrast it was going to disappear into the background. All that effort and I am not going to be happy with the pictures. :-(

And then... A small parting in the cloud above me revealed the sun and all at once the leaves became illuminated. The only clear part of the sky was where the sun shone through and now the right hand leaves glowed and separated from the background. I have mentioned my lucky timing before and here it was.

The sun shined on me and my leaves once again.

Ps. There is a little more story with the other photo.

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