The Three Green Men: Symmetry Exhibition, National Arts Festival 2017

My solo exhibition – Symmetry – is at the Carinus Arts Centre for the National Arts Festival from 29 June to 9 July 2017. I’ve decided to write a series of posts about the images that are in it so that you can see what it is about.  When you walk into the exhibition you’ll immediately pass by the three green men.  One of them is so striking that I chose it for the poster and advertising.  Here he is.

Äsperöd Green Man Final

It’s an image of a Scots Pine tree (tal in Swedish) deep in the forest near our apartment in Äsperöd, Sweden.  I’ve mirrored it into two and also overlaid the image on itself.  This is the original.

Äsperöd Green Man Original

I took the picture one evening last September (early autumn in Sweden) when the light was soft and diffuse.  That meant I got an image with lots of detail and I could increase the contrast and saturation in post production to give the final picture more impact.

The Green Man is thought to be a pagan symbol of rebirth – that’s according to Wikipedia anyway – and found in architectural motifs right across Europe.  It’s usually a face made of branches, leaves, fruit and vines.  That’s certainly the case with the second green man too.

Göta Green Man Final

This image’s of an oak (ek) tree showing the first autumn colours and I’ve used the identical processes of mirroring and overlay on it.  The foliage is far more dense and so the image is much more richly textured.

Göta Green Man Original

I took the original at lunchtime whilst walking in the nature reserve above the Göta River in Trollhättan.  Once again I made sure that the light was soft and diffuse.  The third green man is a little different.  He’s an artefact made of driftwood in Lars Vilk’s amazing construction called Nimis  located in Skåne.

Nimis Green Man Final

I like the way he just stands there with his arms on his hips.  There’s something oriental, almost samurai-like, about his presence as though he’s covered in armour. Here’s the original picture.  It’s taken with a fish-eye lens from the walkway that tunnels between the towers.

Nimis Green Man Original

It was an overcast, drizzly October day so I managed to get all three images to complement each other nicely in terms of light conditions.

Fantasy trees

A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture on Facebook.  It’s one of my favourite trees catching the warm sunshine: full of twisty arching shapes. At the time my good friend Harry Owen said he could see an artwork coming on …. he was right.

Äsperöd Gnarly

Äsperöd Gnarly

I’ve managed to find some time to work with it and I’m pretty happy with these two images. They’re full of mirroring and overlay and to me they’re fantasy works.  This first one overlays an image of the forest floor to give a warm rich texture.

Äsperöd Mushroom Fantasy

Äsperöd Mushroom Fantasy

The second one rotates the trees and the cross processing of the overlaid images gives some amazing blue and red tints.  There’s a completely different feel to it.

Äsperöd Fantasy

Äsperöd Fantasy

This is still a work in progress and hopefully I’ll be putting up more pictures as my ideas develop.

‘A tree sits like an avatar, an embodiment of the immutable, far beyond the pains of man.’

Nearly all of the Portals exhibition pictures are of trees. So I think a word of two of explanation is needed.

Why trees and what is their significance to me?

The great woodworker George Nakashima says in his book The Soul of a Tree:

‘Then, when I am there, feeling at one with the trees and space around me it’s easy to feel the trees with soul.

A tree sits like an avatar, an embodiment of the immutable, far beyond the pains of man.’

Sometimes, when I am alone with them, I feel the trees with soul.  Some trees speak more clearly than others. When I’m in Western Sweden I’ve discovered that there are a lot of Scots Pine (Tall in Swedish).   They’re special trees that usually hide deep in the forests on small rocky outcrops.  Here are a couple of pictures of one of my favourites sitting ‘like an avatar’ in its own space.

Äsperöd Gnarly Tree (Tall)

Äsperöd Gnarly Trees

I’ve visited this particular tree often in the autumn.  At sunset the light dips across the forest catching the branches in a  kaleidoscope of fractured shards.  Here it’s turned into a dark archway: spanning the forest floor.  Inviting you to stand beneath it.

Äsperöd Sunset Archway

But it’s easiest to photograph it when the sky is overcast or just after the sun has set.  That is when you get the images to help uncover its character.  There’s no sharp contrasts to distract the eye and it becomes a giant being with arms reaching high above you.

Äsperöd: Giant Tree Being

Äsperöd Tree Being: Waiting

Or, and this last picture is my favourite, it’s inviting you to pass between the old exposed tree stumps as it waits – poised, balanced, almost expectant – for you to come before it.

‘You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave’ Pearl Mzobe and Kate meet up again in Sweden

Kate definitely fits the Hotel California lyric ‘You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave’.  She’s now Emeritus Professor but when Pearl Mzobe came to see us this weekend it was plain to see that here was the supervisor with her former student.  Pearl’s now taking her PhD at Lund University (she got her Masters with us at Rhodes a few years back) and we took her on our long walk that links together Uddevalla’s beautiful Nature Reserves.  It was a five hour walk in the clear sunshine through the greenest of forests with fresh flowing streams.  We even saw a fox and a snake.  We start off at Äsperöd and then link together Ture Dalar, Emaus, Korpberget and Gustavsberg reserves before walking along the Strandpromenarden around the end of the fjord and back to town. There were plenty of stops for the two geomorphologists to investigate the rivers and even more for me to take photos. You can see just how lovely it all is from these pictures.