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.


peggy said...

I'm not an artist or an org. just a blog person who loves anything that nature gives us and the work that you do, which is all incredible. I am sorry that anyone would feel entitled to use your work. I couldn't get all of your pictures this morning so I hope those of us who would never do such a thing, are not deprived of seeing your photography. Thanks for the pleasure that you have given us.

Richard Shilling said...

Hi Peggy and thanks for the support. It was my mistake that these photos had gone astray, they should be okay now. I love to share my images, I just live in hope that certain people who feel like taking them is okay are a little more respectful in future. To be honest I don't think anything will change but ah well, such is life!