THE JOY OF MAKING
During recent shows, one of the regular questions I am asked is about the process involved in creating works for the Symmetree Oak project. Although they do vary, I’ll attempt to describe a typical process.
When photographing the Symmetree Oak at Badsell Park Farm, I waited for unusual atmospheric conditions. This meant checking the weather the evening before to see if any ground or air mist was likely. The mist plays a large part in both the quality of light and the setting of the oak tree in the landscape. Different densities of mist produce very different qualities of light. I would normally get to the oak tree before the sun breaks the horizon so that I have time to set up.
The tree was set in a large open field, I was able to walk a circular path around it taking up 12 photographs or more. These photographs are the basis of the different Symmetree Oak works.
As the project has developed, I have been influenced by both contemporary and historical themes. The ‘Tripomatic Legend’ series combines my fascination with the rhythm of contemporary music while drawing on a visual language that can be traced back to the celts and early Britain.
Tripomatic Legend IV
The term ‘Symmetree’ is a way of describing the reflecting and/or rotating of elements of the tree when creating the composition. In some it can be a simple straight line through one section of one photograph. With other pieces it becomes a complex texture of overlaid elements.
As much of the project is about exploring the relationship between the oak tree, the sun and the landscape it sat in, I consider the relative priority of these elements when arranging the pieces. Each photograph is digitally treated, some become negative, some positive and others coloured. With each composition, I am looking to remember what the experience of being in the landscape at that time was like.
When I am happy with a composition, it is printed on to a stunning heavyweight Hahnemuhle paper stock using archival inks. It is at this point that I have something real and physical to work with. For most pieces I tear the edges of the print. It is a way of harking back to the shape and forms the branches make on the oak tree and has become a signature on most of my works.
The print is then mounted in preparation for a number of layers of varnish, resin and other materials which create the final piece. This stage of the process can take up to a week or more, before it is ready to frame. The choice of frame is very important to me as it can make or break the presentation. It has to enhance the piece by sympathetically working with it.