Monday, December 28, 2009

Tree sailing.

                                                       Tree sailing.

As a child in England during the Second World War I discovered a special little game I could play by myself called ‘lining things up’. Through a slight movement of my head a fly speck on the window could be placed on the top of a tree outside, the line of the edge of the table before me could be extended into space to pass precisely between the heads of the adults who were talking to me. They were talking sure enough, I could hear the distant murmur of their voices, but I was off in a visual world of my own. If I had been born twenty years earlier that developing skill might have made me a sniper or bomb aimer but others performed that task and many died that I might grow in peace and eventually become through that little habit of mind an artist and photographer.

That habit grew and grew through time. At first the lining up of things became more challenging: as I walked I could I see potential complex line-ups as they developed and “fire’ with a quick twitch when the magic moment arrived. For it felt like magic. Then it was shapes in three dimensions: the garbage can in the foreground became the base of the building behind it and the cloud in the sky would balance for a moment on the mountaintop in I waited just a minute. Fortunately for me this never developed into a mania as it could have done if I had lived a difficult and stressful kind of childhood. Instead the family moved to Canada after the war and I lived on a little ocean bay on the west coast of Canada. The family was preoccupied with making a living and I , the youngest of five, was overlooked to wander the shores and woods alone. I began a romance with the wild that would last me forever and combined that with the keen observation I had learned in my childhood game. Now my world was a familiar, constantly shifting constellation of relationships. The top of the cedar tree I was clinging to in the gale for fun danced in concert with its fellows and the waves in the bay echoed that in an interesting complex rhythm. The low clouds rushed close overhead and spoke in a kind of grey visual language. I started to draw.

Nowadays when I take my camera for a walk I not only still see those complex relationships but look within those forms for what they are saying in their visual language. In this I share something with other artists down through time who have striven to record this in their art, whether in music, dance, or in pictures and sculpture. I think back to the cave paintings of Southern Europe that were striving to portray the mystery ten thousand years ago and know myself to be in good company. That little childhood game was not so crazy after all, just my portal into the realm of a reality that underlies and informs our knowledge of what we call ‘ the real world’.

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