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!



On Boxing Day, while I was away in Kenya, I received a text from a friend informing me of some good and bad news.  The good news was that the  billboard at Dobbies Garden World entrance in Shepton Mallet had finally been moved from obstructing the planting and my sculptures – installed last May.  The bad news was that two of my sculptures had disappeared!  Mortified, all manner of  explanations for this went through my mind…  It wasn’t until early January that I received confirmation from Dobbies that they had, in fact, been stolen.

The three large steel and wire insect sculptures, which I was commissioned to create for permanent siting at Dobbies’ new branch in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, had originally been cemented into a deep cavity, with strong steel bases to keep them even more secure.  The heist must have been quite an operation.  Out of the three pieces, ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Dragonfly’ have gone – only ‘Bumblebee’ is left….

Who’s behind this?  Why make a beeline for ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Dragonfly’?  Did it take longer to notice they had disappeared because the billboard had masked their existence?  Does this robbery link with that of the steel deer sculptures – stolen from a private garden in Templecombe?

CAN YOU HELP TRACK THEM DOWN?!  If you know anything about this theft, please contact the police in Wells on 0845 4567000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111

Below are some before and after images:

The happy threesome at Dobbies entrance, Shepton Mallet - installed May '09

The missing duo - Dragonfly and Butterfly


Butterfly at night

Me with Dragonfly - June '09

The billboard...

January '10 - less two sculptures

A very sad, cold, lonely Bumblebee