Sunday, May 01, 2011

Aura Leaf

Aura Leaf, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

A Mirbeck's Oak leaf surrounded by thin layers of Paper Birch bark, one white, one orange and positioned to catch the last red rays of the setting winter sun.

I made this back in January and this sculpture has become the cover for my new book Flux. You can read about it here.

Sometimes land art comes easy and sometimes you have to put the work in. I didn't really have any idea what I would do when I arrived in the wood (but that is hardly unusual) so I kept warm by wandering around inspecting the twisted oaks, looking for the right spot to make something. Often this is where the inspiration will come from. A shape, a colour, a particular place, something will trigger an idea. I found a dead branch with a perfectly formed zig-zag that would be perfect to attach leaves to, to make an abstract tree whilst the real ones surrounding it laid dormant waiting for the spring.

I had found some nice, thin layers of Paper Birch bark earlier, translucent and glowing when held up to the light. So I decided to layer them onto oak leaves to see if the light would catch the edges.

I made seven of these layered leaves and attached them with thorns to the dead branch to create a surreal, abstract, electric tree. But one of those leaves was more shapely and brighter than the rest. The layer of white bark was almost perfect and didn't have any lentincels lentincels to break up the colour, so it appeared to be pure white, like paper. The orange layer was very similar. Since making that leaf I have searched and searched and searched for more bark with unbroken colour. I have not found a single piece such as that first one and at that time, luck would have it, that I had attached the best bark to the best leaf and put that leaf at the top of my abstract tree. The other leaves were not the same, the colours not as strong and the graphic representation not as striking.

I only found this out after a few hours spent freezing my brass monkeys off. The air was cold and frosty (this was back in January) and the wind strong and cut right through to the bone. I cocooned myself in my bivvy bag to try and retain some warmth, the nylon flapping around my face, my breath condensing on it making me damp and colder all over. To try and wake my bum from its slumber and to keep the rest of me from freezing solid I had to jump up and run around every ten minutes to get my, now thickening blood, to take warmth back down to my extremities. But, nevertheless, I cowered back under my bivvy bag, back on my perch on the rock to fashion more pieces of bark and pin them to another leaf.

It would be times like that that I question my sanity. It isn't like I know whether what I am doing will turn out any good or not but despite all that I seemed to carry on. I still don't know why I do, when I do, but I guess the times when I have given up have nothing to remember them by so I am glad that I can be persistent some of the time.

Anyway, when I got home to look at the pictures of my Aura Tree. I saw the leaf sitting on top and was taken by its form and colour. The low winter sun was strongly red and brought out the most amazing colours from the bark. So I went back the next evening to find that leaf and to single it out for a photo shoot all of its own. The golden hour, that evening, went through every hue of gold, orange, purple and red and lit up that leaf and its bark as though it was on fire, or painted or somehow made in a computer program.

I've not found a leaf or a bit of bark like it since. Everything came together to make it all that it could be without any volition from me. Sometimes land art is like that, just like moments in life can be. All the elements slot together to make your experience timeless and special, whether or not you are freezing your butt off wrapped up in giant plastic bag!

This sculpture became the cover for my all new book Flux, none of its contents ever seen before in print. You can read all about it here.

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