The Cocoon concept is gaining ground in my head. I plan to fill an entire room (and more..) with varying nest, insect and cocoon forms. Watch this space…! In preparation, I’ve been gathering visual information from the Cocoon at the Natural History Museum and BRLSI (Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution) – which houses a surprisingly rich collection of insects, nests, corals and fossils etc.. I’ve also started a short course at Dove Studios exploring aluminium etching techniques, to expand my means of expression! It takes me back to art college days (another life..) where I loved the etching process, particularly for mark-making.
I’ve been looking at some of the ideas I had in those days. They’re not dissimilar to my current thoughts, despite the time lapse. As a student, I once wrote a theses entitled ‘Vitalism’. I tried to substantiate my theory that, within certain artworks there lies a ‘vital’ quality, life imparted to inert matter, an energy force within. It seemed uncharted territory, yet I found that several artists whom I admire had this ‘vitalist’ concept within their work: Mondrian, Arp, Moore, Hesse, Klee, Sutherland, Redon, Giacometti – to name a few. There is a potent force, a sense of organic development, growth, mutability, dynamism, creationism of another type. I want to explore that ‘vitalist’ principle again, having always had the compulsion to make pieces that seem to have an inner life.
I was kindly lent a book by a visitor to my Somerset Art Weeks show, who observed my interest in Anthills. “The Soul of the White Ant” by Eugene Marais has since fanned the flames of my earlier ideas and blown my mind! We all create, from ants to humans (ants made arches aeons before man). But way more fascinating is that magic ‘sense’ with which a collective mass of insects communicates and works together, building night and day living, breathing sanctuaries (with fungus gardens and 65′ deep water wells) that rise so furiously and massively – evading destruction. Termitaries themselves are living organisms. But with no queen/creator, they disintegrate immediately. She is their heart and brain – the force that links all the ants together. Of course there is that far greater force called God, but that’s a bigger story!
I’d like to create work with an essence of that vital force. I’m not interested in the dead (although a part of life), the minimalist, stark, straight lines, gimmicks. I want layers, depth, textures, colours, intensity, life. Moving on from ants, I’m also in awe of human communities like the Dharavi slums in Mumbai, where people young and old work together in harmony to form a hive of buzzing, thriving, creative endeavour. There’s hardly any crime! Wish we could follow their example.
P.S. Update: I’ve just been to see Avatar, which I thought was wonderful! Its thrust echoes the sentiments of vitalism ‘…a network of energy lines flowing through all things’. Loved those fantasy creatures and plants!