Into the Dream Forest at #NAF18

Forests are hard to photograph. They’ve got all the light and shade, shapes and textures you could want – but trying to get that in a picture and capture the feel of a forest is another story. On Christmas Day last year I took a very wet and slippery walk to Hogsback’s Big Tree. On the way down I paused and took a misty shot looking back up the pathway. That’s the picture which led to this set of six images that will be in my #NAF18 exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’. They’re the Dream Forest series. I realised that if I used a Fine Art Filter in post processing then I could give the misty wetness a dreamlike, evanescent quality.

The picture I’d set out for was of an individual tree – The Big Tree. It towers high over your head and it has got a massive girth. These three wide angle lens pictures of individual Hogsback trees are taken from ground level and that gives them a different quality and scale to the Dream Forest pictures.

All of these pictures, and more, will be in sale at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Grahamstown throughout the National Arts Festival from June 28 to July 8.

The Big Picture: Unwrapped for #NAF18

Today’s the big day – it’s when I get my large prints back from the framers. I’ve worked on them for a long time but only seen them on the computer screen – and they can be big: 90 cms x 90 cms. I get a glimpse when I carefully unroll them as they come back from the printers.  But I am scared of creasing or marking the surface so once I have checked each print they all get rolled back up again and taken to be mounted and framed.

#NAF18, Metamorphosis, Johan Carinus Art Centre, Grahamstown

The Big Picture: Delivery for #NAF18

Getting them into the house once they’re framed can be fraught with dangers too. The dogs have to be shut away as each piece is carefully navigated up all of the steps from the bottom carport and then round the stoep and finally into my studio. Finding room to unwrap them is like moving tetris pieces as I have over 50 pieces ready for #NAF18. And Kayleigh the cat would just love to sneak in and hide amongst all of the wrappings!

I’ll really enjoy having them around me in the studio for the next three weeks. Then this whole process gets repeated to get everything out of the house and off to my exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ which is at the Johan Carinus Art Centre for the duration of #NAF18 from June 28th to July 8th.


Revealing the Sugarbirds at #NAF18

Opening up a roll of prints takes me straight back to childhood.  It’s the anticipation, the long wait since you finished the post production and uploaded the images to your printer in Port Elizabeth or Cape Town. Then you get the email, they’re done, and you have to wait for the courier to deliver.  24 hour delivery they say but if you are living in Grahamstown that can take anything up to five days.  Then, of course, they might deliver to a neighbour over the road (because you were out) and never bother telling you!

The Sugarbird images are black and white with the birds floating like oriental brushstrokes on a very pale background. I’d selected the Hahnemühle German Etching paper because I wanted a rich texture and as soon as I saw the images catching the late afternoon sunlight I was delighted with the result.

I’ve four Sugarbirds images in Metamorphosis – they’ll be on show thoughout the National Arts Festival (June 28 – 8 July) at the Johan Carinus Arts Centre.

The Sugarbirds Composite

Trees – at Space Creative and Culinary on October 28th

I always like to make a mosaic of the images I’m going to show.  So this first picture’s your overview of the 14 images that’ll be up for sale at Space Creative and Culinary, 14 Fitzroy Street, Grahamstown on 28th October.  They’re almost all pictures of trees: Balanites, Baobab, Birch, Cabbage,  Fig, Fever, Hornbeam, Oak, Shepherd’s and Yellowwood.

Trees Exhibition

The first thing you’ll see is that some of them are naturalistic but others are mirrored or overlaid to show their fractal designs.  The four images on the top row are all single African trees pictured against the sky.  I’ve mounted them simply on card and they’re printed on enhanced matte paper – they sell for R750 each.

In the second row there’s the Fig Tree from the Botanic Gardens in Grahamstown on the left hand side and two Hogback Yellowwoods twining around each other on the right hand side. These two look quite special as they’re printed on brushed aluminium dibond – they’re the most expensive items for sale at R2500 each.

The black and white mirrored image of the Baobabs is between them, it was taken in the Okavango panhandle.  Printed on glossy paper and mounted behind glass with a black wooden frame it’s priced at R1500.

Baobab Temple

Two green mirrored images come next.  Both pictures were taken in Sweden: on the left is an Oak above the Göta River and on the right is a Hornbeam at Tureborg in Uddevalla.  They’re R2000 each, block mounted and printed on enhanced matte paper.

The three images of spiders’ webs were all taken early one misty morning at Tsitsa Falls in the Eastern Cape.  They’re printed on enhanced matte paper and block mounted ready to be hung –  they also sell for R2000 each.

The final two images are the most complex. They repeatedly mirror, overlay and use positive and negative versions of one lone Birch tree that I photographed silhouetted against the deep blue arctic sky at Tromsø in Norway.  They’re also block mounted, enhanced matte images and sell for R2500 each.


Fractal Dryad

One of the most frustrating things about curating right through the Arts Festival is that I get a lot of inspiration but there’s no time to act on it until quite a bit later.  This year was no exception.  Many people have commented that a lot of my pictures resemble fractals – and I agree with them because they do – but I’ve never set out to make a fractal picture before.  I’ve chosen the pattern that’s found in trees, flowers, seeds and a whole host of other natural phenomena – a Fibonacci spiral of ever smaller images in a theoretically endless sequence. The key thing is that each image in the spiral is the exact replica of the same image at regularly diminishing or increasing scales.

Fractal Dryad

Producing an aesthetically pleasing picture that more or less follows these ideas has been difficult.  The problem is chosing an image that shows the spiralling nature in a dynamic way.  The sequence I’ve made starts at the large image to the bottom of the picture and then rotates up to the top left, across to the top right and on down in a clockwise direction until it spirals out of sight.  The base picture is from my Dryad series: where a mirrored image of a skeletal tree is projected on to Natalie’s back as she stands in front of a screen.

Here’s a screenshot from Wikipedia showing the mathematics that the spiral sequence is based on.

Fibonacci Spiral

I added further copies of the whole picture into the cut-outs of her head so that she appears to be looking out of her own shadowed outline.

Now I’ve finished working this out of my system it will be time for some more photography.  I’m off to Sweden in a couple of weeks time where I’m sure to find some more inspiration from nature.





Festival fallout

I’d like to start by saying how wonderful it was to receive so much positive feedback from so many people.  That has meant a lot to me and pointed my work, and exhibition next year, firmly in a couple of directions.  I’ll post more of these ideas shortly.  It was quite something to talk about my pictures with complete strangers and that’s helped me get a very clear idea of what my work is about.  I really enjoyed having friends drop by too: some of you were clearly surprised but in the nicest way I think.   Then, of course, it was great to sell my pictures – though the first time a couple of them walked out of the door felt a little strange.  I sold four framed copies and seven prints – so eleven in all – ten was my original goal so I’m pleased.  Here are the ones that sold:

Äsperöd Gnarly (900 x 754) R2200 framed (sold); R1350 print

Äsperöd Gnarly

Äsperöd Gnarly

Aurajoki Runic (643 x 900) R1900 framed (sold); R1150 print (sold two prints)

Aurajoki Runic

Aurajoki Runic

Baobab Temple (900 x 378) R1550 framed; R1150 print (sold one print)

Baobab Temple

Baobab Temple

Natalie Metallica (1200 x 800) R2450 framed; R1300 print (sold two prints)

Natalie Metallica

Natalie Metallica

Aloe Skyscape (800 x 680) R2000 framed (sold); R1250 print

Aloe Skyscape

Aloe Skyscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape (900 x 404) R1650 framed (sold); R1200 print

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Stendörren Dreamscape (1350 x 529) R2200 framed; R1350 print (sold one print)

Stendörren Dreamscape

Stendörren Dreamscape

Okapuka Sunset (1000 x 997) R2750 framed; R1550 print (sold one print)

Namibia Skylight Half Size 150

Okapuka Sunset

Prints are still available of all of these and so are hard copies where indicated. Portals Exhibition – the catalogue has full details for the other pictures as well.  Contact me if you want to place an order.

What were the downsides?

Well, Carinus Annex is very cold to sit in day after day during mid winter and be told that you aren’t allowed to use the electricity for heating!  This seems more than a little strange when you are paying a daily rental fee. It’s also a venue in serious need of a coat of paint and overall refurbishment.  It looks tatty and that’s not a good atmosphere if you are trying to exhibit.  I know it’s ‘only’ a Fringe venue but this also reflects poorly on the Festival.  It’s been my first time exhibiting but I still I got the impression from artists and visitors that visual art as a whole needs some more support: just look at the ugly wire frame stands for example … I had to prop mine up with folded magazines!

Portals exhibition 2016

Portals exhibition 2016

Finally, a big thank you to Harry Owen for helping me to set up and take down the exhibition.