Friday, 17 April 2015

Endless Columns

‘Thinking is one of the great pleasures of working outdoors’ – Roger Deakin

Two weeks ago now seems like a whole season away. Looking at pictures I took then while working on an outdoor sculpture for a forthcoming exhibition at Coombe Trenchard, I’m struck by how wintery the woodland now appears.  We’ve since then experienced some kind of heat wave and I imagine the trees there are now in leaf which will greatly change the appearance of the work. I very much look forward to seeing it again in a couple of weeks at the opening of the exhibition.

the site, before and during clearing 

Making the piece involved clearing brambles which are abundant throughout the upper woodland and then using these to weave a number a number of stackable structures. The plan was to install these as columns rising from pools of water in the gardens and woodlands at Coombe Trenchard. Inspired by Brancusi’s Endless Column, I’ve written about the idea for this piece in sketches for spring(s) and more sketches for spring(s) on this blog, as well as an earlier post about a similar piece created for one of the ponds at Stave Hill Ecological Park.

outdoor studio

Working outdoors in this way is a time consuming process and allows for much thinking. While cutting back and weaving brambles over several days, I reconsidered the location where the work would be installed; the site where the brambles were cleared seemed the obvious setting for the work. I would be resurrecting the brambles there but in a different form - three columns winding themselves around an alder tree allowing brambles to do what they do best, but in this case, without the vine putting the host tree at risk.

Scale became an important consideration when producing the work; outdoor pieces can often be thwarted by their location. The shape and height of the sculpture was largely dictated by the the tree itself and the configuration and number of branches growing from its trunk that would support the woven brambles. My intention was to cause as minimal disturbance to the natural surroundings so to allow the visitors to come across the piece almost by chance as they walk around the pond and woodland. Just how discreet the piece now is amongst the new canopy of leaves, I’ll find out when I next visit. 

work in progress

How long will the piece last? Not forever, but then again what objects do? The beauty of working with wood is that it more or less lives and dies in human time scale, at least if we compare it with stone (another thought borrowed from Roger Deakin from Wildwood, also quoted above). The piece will last a few years and in this time, the living brambles might have reclaimed the area in which the piece is installed. It will be then be time to add to or remake the piece. The sculpture will be given a new lease of life, making us think about pattern of growth, life cycles and their enduring nature.

On a more practical note you might wonder whether this piece is for sale. It is. If you have grounds with the invasive plant pest and a desire for a sculptural intervention, I'll happily come along with my pair of leather gloves and secateurs and be a resident artist creating new site specific works.

more work in progress

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