Overview of the works progress so far:
By visiting the site at Alnwick I had a first hand experience of the environment.
My personal first experience of the site was one of mystery and discovery, nature dominates the space and the inclusion of sculptural works draws the visitor into the woodland to explore away from the path.
It is this approach that I have chosen to use when designing my artworks. The pieces are going to be subtle in comparison to those from last year and include a little hunting or surprise on the viewer’s part.
I’m continuing my use of crows’ feet and have included skulls in the multiple outcomes; a collection of corvids and that of a fox found on site.
The first outcome uses the crows’ feet. I had to consider the material, it needs to be weatherproof to survive outside for a year, but still capture some of the detail of the original objects. The rapid 3d prototype machine offers this and also allows me to scale up the objects to make them more visible.
Originally I’d planned on a solitary pair of feet, bodiless against the horizon created by the beautiful, moss covered stone wall. But on further thinking I decided to make four feet, a pair of bodiless crows in invisible conversation, and it clicked and the piece became stronger for me. In this piece I am discussing the nature of the crow and it’s “malignment”, it has become a victim of culling and yet is also a creature of intelligence and occult power.
Rather than place the statue of an entire crow, the bodiless feet create a ghost, they could be of any large bird, and by removing the body the viewer fills in the space with their own imagination.
In order to fix the feet I have carefully maintained the angle of the top of the wall in my maquette, and reduced the top measurement. I will use a 2 part glue to fix the piece that is quick drying and is suitable for both plastic and stone.
I would like the piece to be situated on the wall with surrounding trees to create more of a sense of discovery, however the height of the wall could cause problems with visibility, even after scaling up the feet. There is a section of the wall after the wooden gate, that would be better visible as it is on a downwards slope towards the river and would offer the viewer more opportunity to discover the work.
The second piece is the fox skull, another maligned creature in our society. I found the skull on the walk and wanted to create something that reintroduces it into the environment as a work of art. The problem I feel with objects such as this is that nothing I could do would create anything as beautiful as the fox skull, and so I used the casting process to create a “ghost”.
Again the material is important to be able to survive outdoors, after previously playing with resin I thought whether that could be utilised and sought the advice of David Hayles who works with resin and decided to make a plaster cast of the skull.
The plaster cast consisted of six pieces, and unfortunately stuck to the resin and is proving difficult to remove. Underneath, I am not expecting to be entirely satisfied with the outcome. I did not expect an exact replica, but it’s appearing a lot less refined than I would have liked.
The learning experience of creating such a complicated cast was interesting and the colour of the resin suits the skull well. If I were to attempt something like this again I would make the mould in a box to make it easier to retain the shape of the mould. The skull also became damaged from the water in the paster making the bone soft.
It would probably have been wiser to have used the rapid 3d prototype machine to create this piece, but the costs of this are expensive and felt compelled to finalise all of my ideas.
Rather than hang the piece on a wall as a totem as I had planned, I want to try situating it in the pile of rocks at the beginning of the walk. My aim is that by spraying the cast with some phosphorescent paint that as the light moves and the shadows change, some of the skull might be illuminated, emphasising the “ghost” aspect of the piece.
In some sense I have proven to myself that I was right, nothing would have been as perfect as the original skull, but I wanted to turn it into something else, a representation or “ghost” of the object as I have come to think of it.
The third piece uses 2 crow skulls, a magpie, jay and jackdaw skull. These skulls come from birds who have been culled and the heads have then been boiled and bleached. As objects they are beautiful and delicate and would not survive the casting process. I am happy to use the original skulls and fill them with food for the living birds in the hopes that they may land on the piece and feed from them. Visually creating an opportunity for death to feed life.
Once the food is gone, a visitor along the walk may find themselves “stealing” a skull or two to take home as treasure, passing on the experience and the natural object finds itself appreciated somewhere else. It is also a part of the sense of discovery, the reward from having found something.
I’m also aware some of the visitors may not appreciate this piece because of it’s raw material and somewhat macabre visual. I’m ok with this, as part of this project is about portraying my interpretation of nature and this is the piece I’m creating with the most natural elements incorporated.
I’d like to hang the skulls on tree branches, my first choice would be the small tree I found covered in lichen not far from the marshes. The tree has lots of accessible hanging space at a height suitable for the viewer and stands prominent from the other trees.
In conclusion, the works I have conceived in response to this brief are aimed to be subtle discoveries for visitors to the woodland walk. They are my personal response to visiting the site and my own interpretation of nature; life, death, mystery and the artist’s role in working with nature; trying to recreate or reinterpret it. The materials in the works have had to be well considered to allow them to survive outdoors, not cause any harm and be affordable.
The multiple outcomes stand as individual works and have allowed me to explore the casting process, maquette making, taxidermy, installation and the use of the found object. Within the next week I should also have taken the crow feet pieces further and scanned them for printing once they have stiffened enough to stay in their current pose. It’s also offered me the opportunity to interrupt the walker’s experience, should they happen to come across my works, with my thoughts and experience of this project in a sculptural form.
I am waiting until closer to the installation date to fill the cavities of the corvid skulls, they are very delicate and I am afraid that storing them in the freezer could cause unwanted damage before installation.