Monday, October 26, 2015

Glyph Totem

I feel like I'm back in the groove...

As you probably know I went art AWOL for a while and pursued my love for bicycles instead. Of late I've been trying to fit back into the land art groove once again but it seems I don't fit properly as I'd become all cyclist shaped.

But now autumn's coming so the groove has widened to accommodate me whatever shape I have become.

Since I was so prolific I moved house and I haven't acquired the depth of knowledge of what is growing and where, the location of really good thorns and where I can find vibrant colours to enrich my palette.

My art developed while I lived in my previous home and I learnt to use the materials that I found around there and so they became fundamental to my style of art. Dogwood, berberis thorns, reed grass and dark mud were all mainstays of my techniques. But where I am now it is more difficult. There are less public spaces and quiet woods in which I can trespass without being disturbed but instead there are many gardens that tantalise me with views of plants I wish to use but I'm not exactly going to help myself.

There are quite a number of trees that I regularly monitor to see what autumn will produce. I didn't move far away from where I used to live so I took a trip over there today to see what is going on with my favourite trees and to start to get my head together for all the colours this season will bring.

There are two particular maple trees that regularly produce the best leaves. One of them produces unique strong orange colours I've not seen elsewhere, it starts early and always begins on the top of one side of the tree, changes that whole side before the rest follows on and sure enough when I went there today that is exactly what was beginning. The other is a Norwegian Maple and it produces very strongly coloured and clean red leaves. When I visited that tree there was no colour other than green present.

There are two cherry trees in the local cemetery and the first time I worked with it's autumn colours the range was immense, every possible hue I have ever seen present in leaves, they were such a thrill to work with and yet every year since it has never happened again.

On my tour I went to visit a place very near to my old house where I made several sculptures, often harvested dogwood stems and had planted a small Rowan tree that had taken seed in a plant pot in the garden. Oh my how had it changed!

It was totally overgrown, so much so I couldn't get anywhere near the plants I used to use a lot, it was utterly impenetrable, I was amazed how much it had changed but also fascinated to see the power of nature in a place I knew so well.

As I was unable to collect some dogwood I went to another place where I knew a load of it grew and with it the leaves often turned a profusion of purple. Having not been there for a while I was excited to see what I would find.

And what did I find? A new housing estate that's what!

Sometimes I go foraging and then return to base to create something out of what I collected. When I knew where all my favourite materials grew if I needed something I hadn't collected to bring the sculpture together then I could nick off and get some. Where I live now I have to be more resourceful.

The core of the sculpture is a Cotinus coggygria stem (AKA Royal Purple) and I collected it near to where I live now. As it started to come together I knew I would need to support it on some sort of frame but where was I going to get suitable materials from?

I grabbed my rucksack, tucked my trousers into my socks and got on my bike to go hunt. I headed towards the shore as I knew reed grass grew down there and pedalled on my way.

It didn't take long to find what I wanted and soon I was scooting back to base.

It was at this point that I knew I was back in my groove. Just picture the scene:-

Guy on bike clutching a four foot bushel of reed grass in one hand whilst pedaling furiously somewhere or other.

Oh how I'd missed this eccentricity. Looks strange to anyone looking but I just didn't care as I know what I will produce will turn out right. And why does that feel so good? Because when I am not acting eccentrically, when I am just trying to be normal so no-one notices me I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, that everyone's gaze is boring into me.

But here I am acting strangely and everyone really is staring and deservedly so! And I don't care! So liberating to be slotting back into that groove.

This whole mission is now carrying it's own momentum, the sculpture is making itself, I'm not thinking about how it should be and somehow when that happens certain things just click into place. I don't know how, I can't intentionally make it happen but when it does it is very satisfying.

"This does seem to be going very well? Have you forgotten how difficult it is to keep these ephemeral sculptures held together long enough to take it's picture? Errm, yes I think I have.2

I set off look for some evening sun, these installations come alive when back-lit after all. I'm rolling along on the buzz of good sculpture and in my excitement I'm careless and clumsy.

First I snap the reed grass frame and have to make a little repair, I tell myself to be more careful.

I clamber through the undergrowth looking for a suitable camera spot and spy one just ahead. I set up my camera ready so that the significant breeze doesn't have too long once I erect the sculpture to tear leaves and upset the composition.

Err, where has the sculpture gone? I was carrying it on top of a bit of cardboard and it seems to have disappeared!

A bit panicky I retrace my steps and find it hiding in the undergrowth and very gratefully I see it is still, mostly, intact.

I make a few more repairs and just pray that I haven't pushed it over the edge.

As is usual I chase the sun across the forest floor and re-erect the sculpture in multiple places as it only stays lit up for a minute at a time before the sunlight moves to another spot.

As I set it in a good spot it comes alive just for that moment and brings together the materials, that time, that place and the rays of the sun to finally, become complete.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

'Opposable Thumbs'

I resisted for a long time before I got a smartphone. I knew as soon as I did I would become its slave. Sadly I was right.

It seemed quite apt that on my way to photograph this sculpture that I was nearly run down by a driver yakking on his
phone and as I was looking for a suitable location that my other half was checking out Facebook on hers. After all the still, warm autumn air, the dappled light through the trees and the sweet smell of moss and pine needles don't go 'ping' when they share themselves.

That little screen of joy nestled in my pocket waiting for me to salivate when the little bell rings. If TV is the opiate for the masses then this is the full on mainline, jacked-up smack.

It's a relief when I leave it behind or when the battery is nearly flat and I have to put it into another room to charge.

And yet I wouldn't be with out it now. I look forward to the time when I can enjoy a live event by watching it on the little screen as I record it instead of just looking straight at it with my eyes. Seems the thing to do these days.

Anyway enough of all that, let's cut to the important...

What is stuff and why is some of it funny? These are the kind of things that would keep me awake if I wasn't already asleep.

How does one reinvent oneself when the question presupposes that you already have been invented and if so you have a patent registered in patent handbook and therefore *know what you are*?

I go bird-watching quite often, though really it is better described as nature sitting, listening and looking. It's not always birds but they are fascinating, colourful and charming. Remember brown is a colour too.

On the way back from an hour of that I drove to the supermarket to buy a packet of ham, past a pub and onwards. When reading I often transpose letters or syllables and turn a sentence into thingsome unintentionally amusing and tit-ter to myself. You may have just done that yourself reading that last one. But why involuntary comedy remixes? Is it just me?

There was a sign outside that pub and it said "Biker Pitstop". Okay fair enough, bikers like a refreshing pint of ale or two and are generally rotund enough to remain beneath the alcohol-driving-limit. But beneath the "Biker Pitstop" line were the words "Thirst Toilet."

What's that all about then? Is this particular pub a bit of a dive and this is a bit of honest PR "sorry it smells like a toilet but we've got some nice beers" or was it a slightly obtuse review on Tripadvisor? Perhaps if you are really strapped for pennies they don't mind if you drink straight from the loo itself? I'm struggling to think of alternative versions of this phrase with letters or syllables transposed that makes more sense than what I read in my mind's eye. I'm itching to go back and have a look at the sign and confirm what is written on it and if I read it correctly also find out what a thirst toilet actually is. It might sound grim but come on, I know you want to know too.

I suppose the longer more descriptive version of toilet would involve some inclusion of what it is a receptacle for. In the same vein as 'bread bin' or 'jam jar' I supposed you'd have 'wee toilet' and 'poo loo'. We all know what they're for so I suppose it is only polite to shorten them to toilet or loo. So 'Thirst Toilet' could well be a place to dispose of your thirst? Yes, that must be it, it being a pub is not quite enough.

It's got to be a bit like twitter, the modern way to describe something on social media: hashtag #overlydescriptiveadjectives.

The Red Lion Public #ThirstToilet

After I drove past the pub #thirsttoilet (see, it's catching on already), as I said (you were listening weren't you) I went to buy a packet of ham #packetofham #formysandwiches from the supermarket #placethatsellspacketsofham.

I parked in my usual spot in my usual way i.e. a bit wonky and on my way to the shop the car I strode past was a called a Citreon Cactus? It's a wonder I sleep at night.

It's a rare day where I live when you can make a sculpture like this and take a photograph of it. When it is still enough to make the world stop. The whole process tunes you in to the environment and the elements so you can feel a little bit more deeply what is really going on.

I pinned the top of this creation to a beech leaf with a thorn on the end of a very thin branch, the weight of it pulled the spindly twig downwards so it hung vertically ready for me to take its photo.

Had I been doing anything else I would have said that there was no breeze at all and that it was perfectly still and yet subtle eddies came and went as it gently bobbed the sculpture and twisted it in the warm air.

It was so very slight but in order to take a sharp image of this picture I needed it to stay still just for a few seconds as the sunlight pierced through it's rear.

I needed all these things to come together: soft autumn sunshine, very little wind, but still with those elements at play

I had to wait and wait. But that gave me the opportunity to stop my mind and see. To be afforded a glimpse into how it was at that very moment. All the world in a tiny breeze that tilted the sculpture to and fro.

That's all there is and all there needs to be.