Saturday, March 06, 2010

Heartbeat of the Hardy Palm

Heartbeat of the Hardy Palm, originally uploaded by ...escher....

What did Andy Goldsworthy once say?

"Good art keeps you warm."

Well this must be rubbish as I was bloody freezing! No, it's a thick jacket and the sun that keeps you warm, neither of which were helping me out. One being in the wardrobe and the other behind a thick blanket of cloud.

If it were true I'd spend my heating allowance on a nice framed picture, "throw another log on the Picasso will you dear?"

A year ago I bought a dilapidated hardy palm that needed some TLC. That TLC consisted of planting it in a big pot with fresh compost and keeping it watered. This was all it needed to take on the pretensions and proportions of a triffid with thick lustrous leaves.

Over the winter some of them had bent and would eventually wither. I had had in mind for a while removing a leaf or two and making something with them before they withered.

I was going to cut out a square zig-zag pattern along its length but I soon discovered that this would be difficult or impossible. The leaves are very fibrous with a distinct grain that follows along the leaf meaning that it splits easily along the grain but not against it.

So once again the material itself played its part in what I was able to make. Each leaf was split at the end like a forked tongue and I tore from the end and it split right in two all the way down the leaf following a single grain all the way. I split three more lines within and used cut sections of leaf to weave in between the splits.

I had missed this about land art. Not since the snow sculptures a few months ago had I had the opportunity to learn about new materials and through that exploration and learning process create something that followed the properties and structure of each material. The state of the snow on each different day dictated what I could do with it but even more the sculpture emerged from the experience of learning about the materials themselves as I touched them, played with them and tried to make different things.

And so it was with these palm leaves. I learnt about the grain and structure of the leaves, the growth pattern and how each cell lays next to another. Pun not intended - I always try to follow the grain of the material I am exploring so I am using its inherent properties and not going against them. The idea is to experience and learn about each plant, each medium, each place and making something is just the way I do that.

The sun hung just above a big bank of cloud and the original idea was to show off the grid pattern of the woven leaves but alas the sun soon dropped behind the thick clag and did not return again.

As I carried each leaf to a wood to hang them between two trees one of them became messed up and the woven sections went out of place. I had originally arranged them so they were parallel but now it made a wave. The accidental sculptor had made a more pleasing design than I could so I went with that instead and rearranged the other two too.
As I sat and waited for the sun the brisk North-easterly got colder and colder and I knew I might be out of luck today. The only shot I might get would be a silhouette against the sun. I looked for another tree on the edge of the wood where the only background would be the sky but I discovered that the trees on the edge had many more branches that were not at all suitable to what I had in mind so I surmised that the trees that did not fight for the sun grew leaves all over and did not have some branches with gaps like I needed, like the ones deep inside the wood.

The photo of the sculpture is not all I wanted it to be. I felt reluctant to post this but the photo is only a small part of my land art. The experience and discoveries I make are all the more important and today there were many and as such I feel duty bound to share.

If only to tell you to take a coat out with you and not an oil paiting.

But if I was to search for any symbolism that I sense with this sculpture it would be the energy of growth. I very rarely make something with a concept in mind but sometimes they make me think of something afterwards or while I am waiting to take its photograph.

I noticed today two of my plants in the garden have sprouted new shoots an inch from the ground, in amongst the dead and withered remnants of their life last year. This week I too have felt new life from within (I'm not pregnant :-)), the lengthening of the days and the change of the season has filled me with vigour and optimism for the rest of the year. I have emerged from the doldrums of the long winter months.

So if I was looking for that concept it would be the emerging of that long stored energy of nature, held deep in the roots of the earth as a new cycle begins.

Perhaps you feel it too?

1 comment:

Gina said...

I am enjoying your musings ... that you are coming out of your winter doldrums is a natural cycle? and as i am heading to winter i shall keep this thought close should i hit the doldrums while you enjoy your summer!

Not only musings, but your creations and photographs are indeed 'warming' >>> Gina