A couple of years ago I had a kind of synaesthetic vision. I was listening to some music which included different female vocalists and then I started to drift off to sleep and the music began to weave itself inot my dreams.
As the melodies seeped into my brain I started to see them as colours and shapes that flowed and warped and changed. Each different singer would have their own particular shapes, colours and movements and I was filled with the sense that just like each variety of Bird of Paradise has their own song, colourful plumes and mating dance, each singer displayed their song like a beautiful array of multi coloured feathers.
I felt like I was the dull brown male bird being entranced by the female siren, beguiled by her myriad of majestic colours, her dance and her song.
I can still see those shapes and colours in my mind's eye and the strong feeling that human beings singing is so very much like complex animal kingdom displays, has stayed with me too.
Ever since I have wanted to express those synaesthetic visions through my art, backlit translucent sculptures would live up to the vividness of the colours I saw but I did not know where I would find the colours. Also the shapes would be very difficult to emulate when constructing fragile structures from only materials I find nature.
Over the last couple of years these ideas have continuously been doing lengths, backstroke, up and down in my mind-pool in the backyard. Sometimes it was widths if I was bored with thinking but the splashing continued nonetheless.
This morning I wandered into the garden and saw a carpet of petals on the grass beneath some corn flowers and then someone pulled the plug out of the pool.
For some reason I have very seldomly used flowers save for a couple of times when I used a load of dandelions. Somehow I felt that using flower colours was cheating, too easy, not difficult enough so I would have to immerse myself deeply in the environment. But here were the colours I needed, the hues that matched up with my vision. Art is full of arbritary, self-imposed rules but sometimes you need to break them to move on to something new.
As I searched for different colours I started to see the variance in structure and colour in petals. How buttercup petals are very shiny on one side and corn flowers are different shades of blue on each side. These would help me move one step closer to expressing my vision, of bringing my Song into life.
Sometimes I wonder whether some of the things I talk about here ring true to you or whether they sound embellished to fill out my artwork into something more fulfilled. I never do that, they are what they are and I jot them down as real as I can and express them to you how I experienced them at the time.
Just the same as my sculptures are real and only photographed to extract their essence, there's no trickery beyond bokeh, shutter speed and aperture and it is the same with my words too.
So, just what the hell am I going on about?
Last night on the local news they talked about the last flight of the majestic Vulcan, a cold war era long range nuclear bomber, delta winged and very, very loud. A stalwart of airshows, it really is a sight to behold, thunder held within aluminium, perspex and rivets.
The very last one is about to be decommissioned and it was to make it's last flight this very afternoon. It would set off from Carlisle at 2.30pm and land in Manchester at 3.
Very much the end of an era and I reckoned we might be near it's flight path. I looked at the clock in the corner of my screen and it said 2.45. I jumped up and crashed down the stairs and said to the missus, let's go outside and see if we can see the Vulcan.
As I opened the door, immediately I could hear it's roar and disorientated for a second I scanned the sky and there it was directly overhead, straight up, 12 o-clock on the dot. We watched her disappear over the horizon and felt a little sad to see her go.
I said to Julia "well, how about that, there it was as soon as we stepped out the door and it was flying directly over our house."
"It must be something to do with doing some land art today, things always happen when I do as though someone knows I need material for my story."
I like to pretend I believe in fate, it is generally a nice thing to do. I don't really though, although everything is intertwined and interconnected, I do not believe anything in life is predestined or determined.
But I'm happy to pretend that they are, it is satisfying to think that I opened my mind through my work today and the Vulcan flew over to say hi, just for me and, just because. It's a nice thing to believe even if you are just pretending.
Nature had a hand in this sculpture too. The stems sunk a little as I put it into the water and the surface tension grabbed some of the petals and separated them from the discs they were stuck onto with spit. Of course mother nature plays a big hand in what I make, indeed in everything you and I ever do. But the slow spread of the blue and yellow petals revealed her calm hand gently moving the passage of time along one more tick of the clock.
Song Number 2 by Richard Shilling - Leighton Moss, Silverdale, Cumbria 27th June 2015
Made with pear tree branches, discs of bark and cornflower, poppy, rose, wild rose, geranium and buttercup petals
Thanks to Marcin for his work with flowers and for the inspiration.
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