Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tangle Cube

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I expect like most people, or at least those that are reading this (;-)) you often go for strolls around the park, woods, fields, streets and lanes around where you live. Once spring has sprung those places that you wander through change from moment to moment. Grasses grow tall, wild flowers reach for the sky, everything is in leaf and green.

A revisit to any of those places a few days, a week or a fortnight later and you'll see everything taller, seed heads developing, the undergrowth becoming more tangled and dense like a miniature jungle.

It isn't just something you see, it is something you feel, right through to your very core. Moist air full of buzzing insects and all life looking for chances to reach further, colonise, grow and develop and to bring along the next generation.

Amongst what I find so magical is the blueprints that underpin all life. Road maps and assembly instructions that say to each component part 'do this and repeat until you cannot do any more.'

Plants build spirals and circles and all manner of intricate symmetries. Cells build upon cells and those simple instructions to duplicate, replicate and grow lead to all manner of specialities and magical things. So amongst all that tangled undergrowth, whilst our own cells are a-buzz with the headiness of high summer, lies such richness, diversity and complexity. Complexity consisting of simplicity, beauty and regularity.

All life is a fusion of these two things. Complexity and simplicity, order and seemingly random chaosity. The order and the disarray, the turmoil and the calm, the tumult and the peace.

The tangle and the cube.

Apologies for the watermark, I hate them! But unfortunately it has become necessary to try and protect them a little more (not that it will stop everyone) but I still want to share regardless!

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Variegated Oak Leaf Curtain

This turned into yet another two day search for the sun.

I recently read someone's blog entry about my Rowan Berry Swoosh sculpture and they wrote "tedious work I'd expect but worth it."

It rarely is tedious, though sometimes it most definitely is. But instead it can be quite exciting. Because I rarely plan what I am going to make and change and adapt as I am making something then I don't know at all how it will turn out until near the end. And as I approach the end a feeling on excitement deep within begins to build, as I start to see the final effect. Often it doesn't take on the level of vibrancy or symmetry that I am striving for until the very last component is completed. Sometimes it is like a switch going on, right at the very end, and suddenly everything falls into place. It can be quite unexpected and surprising but nearly always thrilling too.

A fundamental part of my leaf and light sculptures is the sun. I may combine leaves, wood, thorns and other natural elements together but they are not complete until they are put in the right position, in the right place, with right light and the right surroundings. Sometimes this comes easy, sometimes it is incredibly difficult. And sometimes the search for the sun can be very tedious. But as that blogger wrote - worth the wait. And the longer I have to wait the bigger the buzz when I finally combine all the elements together and that switch is flicked and the sculpture comes alive.

It's that extra notch that I strive for. The difference between an ordinary sculpture and something with a bit more life. It doesn't feel right unless that light comes on.

I sometimes worry that my photography looks a bit artificial, messed with, overly saturated or unreal. It is important to me to never fake what I do, as there would be no point in demonstrating any skill if it could be dismissed as photoshop trickery. My photos sometimes look unreal because of the effort I go to to search for the right place, the right light and conditions that will combine with my sculpture to show it at its best.

However there is an ilk of internet lurker who think everything is photoshop trickery or everything is fake. One of my photos of a rock stack was on Reddit this week, and I was quite tickled by the comment "The middle has a thin metal pole holding it all together, you can see it if you zoom in. Zoom in and look at the bottom 3 rocks, and the set of rocks 3rd up from the bottom."

'I've been rumbled, thank god for the internet police! I would have got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids!' No, but really, it would be much more difficult to go to the beach, find a load of rocks, drill holes in them and then build them up, where would the fun be in that! My advice to the internet sceptics is get out there and make your own rock stacks. It's kinda fun, not very difficult and a whole lot more interesting than land art conspiracy theories! Can you see a metal pole in this!

But land art begins with nature and what might not be obvious in what you see is what i learnt about these leaves. Whilst searching for acorns for the Sessile Oak Spiral I found two Oak trees, one with yellow variegated leaves the other with green. I am not sure why these were different from the rest, the only difference I could see was they were perched on top of a small crag and perhaps they were starved of necessary nutrients. But whatever the reason their leaves were beautiful and so I collected some for later.

By trying to create a symmetrical and uniform square shape I had to try and make each small square the same and by doing this I deepened my relationship with the leaves.

With organic growth there is an infinity of minute differences and as I cut a square out from each leaf I learnt how some were straight, some had a bent central vein, some the lobes cut in too deeply and some were too short. In a nutshell I had to inspect each leaf I looked at to discover its structure, shape and colour and better understand the diversity and variation in the leaves of two specific trees.

It is not a robotic process of simply selecting square after square and then sticthing them together. No, it is a process of appreciating and understanding each individual leaf and with it the beginnings of understanding the tree which bore those leaves. By chasing after form and symmetry I was rewarded with knowledge and experience of these trees and their leaves.

There is nothing tedious about this. Nothing in nature is the same. Each thorn, leaf and berry is subtly different from the next. Each day, hour and minute is different from those that preceeded them. And each new experience and new discovery is fresh fodder for the interested mind. Nature is endless and fascinating even if you are just looking at a single leaf.

So after trying the day before to unsuccessfully find the sun, I tried again before breakfast the next day and the early morning light was perfect and the swicth flicked and all the elements came together once more.

In other news this week I am rapidly approaching the age where I must be permanently grumpy and have to whinge about everything (some might say I am already there)! So I am sorely tempted to have a bit of a rant and here's why:-

My photographs often get nicked and used without my permission. I do like people to ask and if it is for your blog and you want to talk about land art then I generally grant permission. But this week I've found three universities using them, but if that wasn't bad enough I found three artists organisations advertising land art workshops using my pictures, one of them lifted 15 images and an entire article about teaching kids land art! There was no credit given at all, no permission sought and they were using my pictures to advertise their own workshops! If they are any good at land art you'd think they'd have some pictures of their own and you'd think an artist may have more respect another persons work!

I've never wanted to watermark my images as I want you to see them as they should be seen but I am getting close to feeling like I have to. If you all prefer that I didn't then say so and I'll reconsider.

Right, I'm off now to shout at the traffic/neighbours/wildlife/sky/helicopters/general public.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Shine by escher is still alive
Shine, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I suppose I am supposed to advertise my exhibition that starts next week. I'd prefer to be sat down carrying on making the sculpture that I've started (a unique land art creation that should last many a year without degradation so someone can hang it on their wall, should anyone want to buy it, anyway!). I am sure most artists would rather hide out in their studios (not that I have one of those) rather than pop up from behind the parapet and self promote.

So what's the deal?

It's a group exhibition with a selection of other North West artists who work across a range of different disciplines. It starts next Tuesday and runs until mid October at Arteria featuring Gallery 23, 23 Brock Street, Lancaster. There are some details here.

The exhibition is entitled "Shine" which must be to do with our wealth of talent (and modesty ;-)) rather than the weather. It's raining, but then Wimbledon has nearly started so it should be raining.

They asked me if I could create something for their posters and fliers so I did, Paper Birch bark, Chinese Red Birch bark , Maple leaves and thorns. Just add sunshine, Dandelions and hey presto.

The opening do is on Thursday 16th between 5pm and 8pm. If anyone would like an invitation (you are all welcome - though I cannot pay for any Trans-Atlantic flights) then give me a shout and I will send you one.

That's all for now, need to get back to my sculpture. Laters!

Shine by escher is still alive
Shine, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)

It's been very hot and sunny today. Blue skies, humidity and thirsty gardens.

This week I've been looking after a neighbour's cat. She's a funny little character with comedy whiskers, a squeak for a miaow, a bum wiggle as she trots along and a propensity to sit legs akimbo licking her wotsits (that's the cat not her owner). I am very fond of Cassie and I look forward to her owner going away so I can spend some time with her. My cat, however, isn't so keen (cue disdainful look from my moggy).

Once I'd finished work and went over the road to give her some grub and I noticed the garden was looking a little dry so I gave it all a much needed drink. Talking of which I've just realised I don't have any beers in the fridge and I could murder a cold one. Cold blooded murder in the first degree, mmmmmmmmmmm yes please.

There's two plants I use quite a lot in non-autumn leaf sculptures: Chamelia (which I have an unfortunate tendency to always refer to as Chlamydia, which was a joke the first time I said it but now it's stuck, and I am afraid I am going to accidentally say it in polite company) which produces yellow, orange and red leaves during the growing season and Photinia which produces scarlet red leaves in spring and summer too.

I thought I'd put together a quick doodle, grabbed some thorns and assembled a little leaf sculpture looking for some sunshine to light up its life.

Heather (Flickereno of these here parts) harvested some morning glory stems last year, and made several little twisted rings. (Here they are before their flight over the pond). She sent them to me in a little parcel a few months ago and asked if I could make something with them. They are beautiful just the way they are but nevertheless I've been pondering ways of including them in something for ages. As I have had very little time or energy to make anything lately I just hadn't got around to it even though I had meant to.

So now one of those little rings sits in the middle of the lit up leaves. An across the pond collaboration. Apologies for the delay Heather and there will be more to come with the little rings and something will wing its way across the pond to you too.

The sunny weather sure does motivate me a little more and I can't resist warmth, the lush growth of flaming June and sunlight through vibrant leaves.

I also have an exhibition coming up in two weeks time and as it approaches I feel my mojo returning. Well it could be that or heatstroke, I'm not sure.

Now there's only time to get down the booze shop sharpish and commit murder in the first degree...

Enjoy your weekends!

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)


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