Layers of Time
For over time, the personal details
Came to mean less to me than the feeling
Of simply having lived them, revealing
Another way of being in the world,
With all the inwardness it still sustains
And the promise of happiness it brought.
It has been a long time since anything really grabbed my attention enough to make the artist in me want to delve and explore it in any depth. They have been disheartening years that have caused me to doubt that I would ever work again.
So when, a week or so ago, I happened upon this ancient olive tree on the terraces of Ibiza my heart leapt in joy.
I know I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to have found inspiration in an ancient tree, but when you're in the presence of something that has lived for centuries, and wears its scars with dignity you can only wonder. I knew that I had found my muse.
At first sight 'my' tree quite took my breath away, and that was just the one side. I walked around to see how the other sides had weathered and stood in speechless awe. Its limbs were twisted, broken or amputated, its exposed roots knotted and gnarled. Bent double by years of unrelenting winds it nevertheless still holds its head high and reaches new growth up to the sky.
I knew I had to draw it. Drawing it would, I knew, deepen my relationship to it, and I wanted to know this tree more deeply.
The first drawing I did standing, holding my sketchbook and some distance away from the tree. It was late in the day. The light was fading and there was a chilly wind, so it was a fairly quick sketch.
Even as I did it I knew that I was just scratching the surface.
As I drew I started thinking about the way history has etched itself on this ancient living being, just as our own layered histories leave their marks on us in our passage through time.
This tree, though, bears the evidence of its history openly. We, on the other hand, hide ours behind a veneer of normalcy and youth enhancers. The tree, for all its 'imperfections,' is perfect and powerful.
The next day I went back earlier in the day and, as I worked I began to discover how every layer of time has left its own particular story. There are so many varied textures. Every one them, and every little detail, is evidence of a different event in the old tree's life. Those are the layers of time recorded in its very being.
I made another drawing from a standing position. This time in graphite. It's quite a loose drawing. Later, when I looked at it I realised that the edginess of the sketch comes, in large part, from a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the thing.
Over the next few days I kept going back to do more drawings. The interesting thing is that, though I love being in the tree's presence, and try to draw there, it is almost as if I become weak there. I find myself doing sketches that are wholly unsatisfactory, and I find that I can only work on a small area at a time. Working from photographs later is easier, but I know that I will also need to return to the tree's presence periodically.
It's the difference between having a telephone conversation with someone, and actually meeting them. It's an elusive feeling, something that's indefinable but very real.
If I want to do it justice I need to make myself familiar with each of its layers of history before I even attempt to put the whole thing together. So the work is turning into a series of small sketches of the details that make up the whole.
Hopefully I will be successful in bringing it all together satisfactorily eventually.
On the other hand, maybe something more abstract based on the many elements layered on one another.......
Watch this space.......