Monthly Archives: May 2011

more art made by mother nature

Sunday 22 May 2011

an altogether more natural artistic intervention in the landscape –  the somewhat startling sight first witnessed on a sunday drive to the supermarket – a short stretch of rambling hedgerow wrapped in a fine, gossamer grey web. i passed the spot on two further occasions, and on the third drive-by pulled over to take a closer look… (photographs taken with a mobile phone)

i think it may have been a hawthorn or perhaps a spindle or elder bush but there was really nothing of it left, just a skeleton… cautiously peering into the faintly spooky, sticky mesh of fibres i could see hundreds of off-white, wriggly things…

i later googled caterpillars and webs and ascertained this was a colony of ermine moth larvae or caterpillars (later to become ermine moths) and they can completely envelop a tree or a shrub to keep predators from attacking their growing colony (which here must amount to many thousands of soon-to-be caterpillars!). i discovered a similar infestation has occurred in a public park in yorkshire… maybe it’s the prolonged spell of dry weather…

quite fascinating and yet mildly frightening in a way too, alluding to a small act of god’s damnation, a biblical allusion to the great plagues of egypt, or nature just proving its powers again – we are all doomed!.. but i think i’ll let you decide…

an obvious art-historical reference sprung to mind – the wrapped trees of christo & jean-claude

wrapping up the landscape, here looking especially marvellous in the early morning (or is it evening?) light…

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
[Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98 (Photo: Wolfgang Volz) © 1998 Christo]

the trees still look ghostly but seem alive (this is winter), with the appearance of fluffy clouds that have just landed or are about to take off, the trees not tightly bound or swaddled into submission as other artists have done…

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
[Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98 (Photo: Wolfgang Volz) © 1998 Christo]

curiously, it was about this time last year that i chanced upon or found some found or readymade art in the landscape (albeit of a humanly-constructed kind) – what is it about the month of may, i wonder?

on drawing things out again

Monday 16 May 2011

today, dear reader, you might like to take a peek inside this recent travelling sketchbook…

sketchbook drawings - trees in a landscape

last weekend i started & subsequently filled this most diminutive of sketchbooks with some simple line drawings… each sketch is 10cm x 14.5cm…

sketchbook drawings - more trees in a landscape

travelling with a pocket-sized sketchbook and an ink pen…

sketchbook drawings - trees in a landscape

here is a selection of some of those small sketches…

sketchbook drawings - a gnarled old tree

observing & remembering the patterns of the natural world…

sketchbook drawings - tree bark

such as an old olive tree, slightly leaning, its bark gnarled…

sketchbook drawings - water surface patterns

or watching below, where the water flows…

sketchbook drawings - surface patterns water

and where the earth grows…

sketchbook drawings - surface patterns made by water

where something can be found…

sketchbook drawings - more patterns

from looking down, at the ground…

sketchbook drawings - sky

or somewhere way up high…

sketchbook drawings - dark skies

in the dark infinity of a sky…

sketchbook drawings - night sky

still seeing clouds, in the rise above them…

i really like the limitation of size – but it is not planned that way, nor perhaps is it even relevant to my paintings, but if someone was to pack me off to greenland on a drawing expedition i would probably be very happy to go… every artist should draw something everyday for it enables one not just to observe but to think singly & deeply about something, even just for a short time…

i always find myself reminded by the simple process of drawing how sometimes it seems so difficult to really understand how another person might think, feel or respond to something, how difficult it is to communicate a personal sense of something that has no adequate means to describe it; but artists will always try and this is what makes art so special…

a while back i conveyed to a very accomplished artist how i felt i had come to a crossroads with anything created in the abstract (i have had similar conversations with many people), about how i felt i was not always succeeding in conveying a genuine feeling about something, without resorting to the means of illustration… there was no answer other than trying to find a new way of getting an aspect of my character into the work… i do not want to drastically change course, but rather i want to consolidate the voice that is undeniably and uniquely me… i guess the truth is, i already have it but i won’t find it by looking elsewhere…

one for the birds

Saturday 14 May 2011

i was quietly sitting in the garden one sunny afternoon and very soon spied the covert movements of a wood pigeon making a nest. this particular garden bird rustled in the top of the spindly bamboo with a furious flapping of wings, with a slightly ungainly, shuffling side-step manoeuvre along a very slim-looking branch, finally hopping into the dense greenery of bamboo. after a short while the wood pigeon would reappear again, waddle its way back along the skinny branch to fly off again. it would then return a minute or so later with a long strand of grass or a thin twig clasped in its beak and once again make the awkward, gawky sideways shuffle back towards the location of the nest.

photograph of a wood pigeon building a nest

a wood pigeon building a nest in the garden, seemingly unruffled when i went inside to get the camera, prepared to wait a moment for the close-up…

there is another wood pigeon nesting high up in another tree, hidden among some rambling honeysuckle; she has been sitting on her eggs for four weeks or more. meanwhile, the grumplesome hen of henley house’s own nesting quarters, for all the appearance of wanting to brood herself, has steadfastly refused to lay a single egg since late april… am i to be the brooding, quarrelsome hen or the hard-working wood pigeon?

anyone with a garden will have been busy these last few weeks. i proudly potted up ten small courgette plants grown from seed (that’s zucchini to any passing americans) in early may, five black and five yellow (plain green is just so last year) and placed them outside, only for them to be caught by the first morning frost in what seemed like months – all my green-fingered work instantly undone. one yellow courgette plant has since survived and three of the black courgette plants also appear to be slowly springing back to life from their shrivelled stems… so, ne’er cast a clout ’til may be out (or whatever; i’ll get my coat…)

now, we hope for more customary british weather to quench the arid earth, after what has been the driest (and probably the warmest) april on record. the months of april and may passing by without a good old-fashioned drenching undoubtedly signals that august will once again be characterised by many days of rain…

dear reader, it seems like it has been a while since i last wrote, due to a certain ambivalence about the relentless task of blogging (too much of the introspective grouch)… much has happened which is relevant to the life of this contemporary artist, but there is no need to share it here… i had cause to think back five years, to how i assumed that writing a blog might invite some exchange and subsequently change… i realise now that the creative exchanges that i most draw upon tend to come from the small, real world that i actually inhabit… art is art, and everything else is everything else