In search of lost time – what real and woven trees can teach us

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“Without a trace” – woven willow by Ken Clarke, 2016, at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

How long does it take to weave a tree? Canadian artist Ken Clarke would know – a long time. Ken has woven thousands of fine willow branches into the shape of a magnificent tree, which dazzles the eye and mind of the observer.

A piece of art like this only comes to life through a vision, complete dedication and focus. It’s not an endeavour for the impatient.

Everybody seems to be busy these days – even busier than 150 years ago when Alexis de Tocqueville already observed that North Americans are “always in a hurry.”

We have too many choices and tasks. We are leading a scattered life dominated by an urgency to make every moment count. Trying to do everything at once, multi-tasking is what usually makes me feel pressed for time. So how do we manage to focus on the essential? As I have noticed that I feel better when I give undivided attention to one thing, my answer to my question is – focus.

But what to focus on when so many things need doing?  While I am looking at the intricate patterns of this woven willow, I am starting to wonder about my own busy life and how I try to manage my precious time on earth.

Life is not about making a choice. It’s about making the right choice. As I am walking around the woven willow tree in the Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park on Salt Spring Island, I remember the following passage by Hermann Hesse from his essay “Trees: Reflections and poems.”

“So the tree rustles in the evening,
when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts:
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful,
just as they have longer lives than ours.

They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees,
then the brevity and the quickness
and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts
achieve an incomparable joy.
Whoever has learned how to listen to trees
no longer wants to be a tree.
He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.”

 

 

 

Further information:

Ken Clarke:
Ken Clarke is a sculptor and artist in Vancouver British Columbia specialising in architectural and water features, and figurative and organic fine art sculpture.

Also watch Ken Clarke’s video on Youtube.

Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park

The Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island, Canada, represents art for the landscape such as Michael Dennis’ monumental figures, Brent Comber’s site specific installations, Peter Pierobon’s Illuminati and sculptures and Ron Crawford’s singular stonework.

More represented artists:  http://www.duthiegallery.com/artists/

Photo credit: Dean Baltesson and Daniela Herold, Copyright 2018

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“I’M-POSSIBLE” by Daniela Herold – Art portraying the healthy stretch from ‘NO’ to ‘YES’

 

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“No, this is impossible”, I heard myself firmly say for the second time. “I cannot do it.”

This could have been the end of the story, but something was bugging me as I kept repeating the same “no” month after month, year after year. I did not want to remain in this frozen state, but had no idea what to do about it. I always thought of myself as a courageous person, travelling the world, living in different countries, trying out new things. But I would not budge in this matter because my fear stalled me.

I was afraid of dogs all my life. I would walk many kilometres of detours just at the sight of a dog a hundred metres away, always with my fingers in my ears as even the faintest sound of barking made me sweat profusely and my legs shake.

I had learned how not to deal with the fear, because I was afraid to deal with it.

Then one day, my partner said to me: “You have got this one life, do you really want to live it in fear? Don’t you ever dream of a life without it? How nice it could be to have your own dog as a companion?”

Obviously I had not, but I realized that I had remained frozen because I never allowed myself to even have a glimpse of a vision.“Very well then, imagine”, I said to myself … and that is when everything changed.

To get out of a frozen state – from firmly believing that something is impossible – to having a dream or a vision for oneself, something needs to change. We need some kind of action, willingness, vision, hope or courage to transport us from the impossibility to the possibility.

Ten years have passed since then, and it should come to no surprise that a wonderful husky border collie mix named Merlin has become the staple in my life. He epitomizes my biggest achievement, the proof that hopes and dreams can catapult you out of stagnation and fear.

Marcus AureliusMy current solo art exhibition at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre (December 2017 – January 2018) showing oil, acrylic and mixed media paintings called “I’M-POSSIBLE” focuses on the juxtaposition of the two elements: the ‘no’ and the ‘YES’. Once we manage this switch in our brain and heart, once we make this stretch beyond ourselves, action, involvement, participation, commitment & creativity start to happen. Where there was a void, a vision can unfold, slowly turning into our mission – and how empowering this development can make us feel!

Of course, we need energy to make positive changes in our lives, but when you connect with your deepest hopes, energy gets released that will help you see possibilities and opportunities around you with more clarity. A friend of mine, the former conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Peter McCoppin, once asked, “What is worse than blindness?” The answer was “sight without vision”.

The day before my friends Rosemary, Charlton, David and I drove up Vancouver Island to set up my show in Duncan, I took Merlin for a walk just after 10 pm.

It was a very dark night, not a star in sight. Merlin pulled me towards a pole, just another thing to mark, I thought, when I realized that he was stopping by a small wooden cabinet with book donations for the community, to drop and swap. With curiosity, I took out a little flashlight, looking for anything interesting, when the light beam touched the cover of Vaclav Havel’s autobiography “The Art of the Impossible”.

I burst into laughter, thinking, “this is impossible”, but here it was – a hardcover of the volume consisting of thirty-five essays by the former president of Czechoslovakia, written between the years 1990 and 1996, all profoundly personal and profoundly political.

Within in the next few days after setting up my show, I found it compelling to read how Havel redefined his notion of politics as “the art of the impossible, that is, the art of improving ourselves and the world.”

What a fine find, and how fitting that very evening. “You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible”, my favourite German author Hermann Hesse wrote. So let’s try, because – as Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Wishing you all a peaceful 2018.

Daniela

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein, American poet and song-writer

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“If something is difficult for you to accomplish, do not then think it impossible for any human being; rather, if it is humanly possible and corresponds to human nature, know that it is attainable by you as well.”

Marcus Aurelius

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“Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-UP

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“Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

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“When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.
Ford replied,”Produce it anyway.”

Henry Ford

 

“There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”

Andre Gide, Autumn Leaves

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“They did not know it was impossible so they did it”

Mark Twain

“All things are possible until they are proved impossible and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.”

Pearl S. Buck

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book Merlin

 

Nothing is impossible to a willing mind.

Unknown (or was it Merlin?)

 

 

 

 

Further information: 

Paintings and photos by Daniela Herold / Copyright 2017

 

“A colony of things” – B.C. artist James Mulchinock on driftwood and baseball marks

photo 4James Mulchinock, you gather, arrange and transform easily accessible objects—or their residue—such as driftwood, coat hangers, baseball marks. Have you turned your childhood passion for collecting into an integral part of your art practice?

James: I think most artists become collectors through necessity. Depending on your approach and medium, you need collectible stuff as the raw material for both ideas and even as material for the work.

Have you entered the hoarding zone yet?

James: No, but give me time and space. Having a childhood passion for collecting helps, especially when faced with the choice between keeping or ignoring interesting stuff one encounters in day-to-day travels. I’m inclined to keep. It may take years before I use it, but that day always seems to arrive.

You told me that you always have a clear concept of what you want to achieve before starting a piece of art. What is the story behind the two large driftwood pieces in “A colony of things”?

James: The two large pieces in Colony of Things using drift sticks started as both concept and process. Years ago, I did a quick study sculpture using drift sticks. At the same time, I was painting more and more on raised wood cradle canvasses, so I thought a lot about painting above the actual traditional painting canvas. Is it possible for me to paint on a non-canvas (surface of beach stick ends) surface a couple inches out from a wall? That’s the idea. But it sat, like a lot of ideas, for a few years. Finally, the itch to create from that one concept was too much to ignore any longer.

James Mulchinock, for the last month these 2 large wall stick sculptures caught my eye every time I was passing by them in our gallery XChanges. First as close-up, unique items with their own beauty and second as part of a group or colony of hundreds of individuals. The sticks’ individuality is disguised when incorporated into the larger mass. In fact, the viewer is hard pressed to identify this mysterious mass as originating from the beach.

James: The large wall stick sculptures are part of a series about the transformation of hundreds of natural wood beach drift sticks into a state of duality. The original organic character of these beach sticks is transformed from an item of utilitarian function into a relief surface of uncertain scale, texture and colour.

photo 1Does that mean your exhibition A Colony of Things is about the dual behaviour of individual marks and objects?

James: Indeed. This larger mass hides the individuality of its members by the sheer volume (300-2000) of collected items or marks.

Your exhibition also contains several paintings (for lack of better word) with a reference to baseball. I am not a baseball fan at all, but these pieces of art keep fascinating me. Tell us more about the concept behind them and why your back hurt so much working on them, you could not get out of bed for a day or two?

James: The baseball drawings, Painting the Corners, came about after several seasons traveling with my son’s elite baseball team to the various baseball parks across British Columbia. When you have hours to kill waiting for the team to complete pre-game warm-up, you notice things: weathered structures around the ball field, marks of baseballs left on dugout walls, cleat spike marks on dirt, grass, and wood. Baseball is not kind to baseball diamonds. However, for an artist, the marks left behind tell a story of the game itself: dreams, emotions, repetitive skill development, it’s all there in what’s left behind.

Making the drawings was a simple trial and error process of what works to capture that erosive quality about the game. I settled on coating baseballs with compressed charcoal and dropping them on pristine drawing paper. Months later, I attempted to do two drawings in one day. With over 500 marks involving repetitive major body motions, I pulled muscles in my lower back. I had to go on the 15-day disabled list.

Your paintings capture the story of specific games in a very special way. How?

James: They represent the violent, yet delicate population of marks made by a baseball on a surface. It explores the controlled randomness of repetitive mark-making and is part of a larger project of documenting chance marks. While each mark leaves a delicate trace of individuality, as a mass they transform into something with its own form and distinctive character.

The marks left by baseballs, bats, and cleats on the worn and impacted surfaces of baseball diamonds strike me as a metaphor of youth, the role of sports in growing up, and even the drama and decay of dreams and ambition in life.

baseball painting by James

What do the Toronto Blue Jays have to do with your paintings?

James: The series is based on six games played by the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball team during three months of their exciting and successful 2015 season. My process is to drop a charcoal-coated baseball onto the drawing paper, which has a penciled 1:1 scale rectangular strike zone representing where the real life pitch crossed home plate.

I have always been interested in collecting: childhood collections of similar cultural and non-cultural items such as postage stamps, leaves, and hockey cards. When organized and mounted for display, the individual items yield to the collective appearance of the group. Even prosaic and utilitarian collections of firewood, nails, and lawn trimmings have perhaps unintentional meanings when brought together. This work explores and transcends the formalistic qualities of known natural materials and ready-mades. Both series takes the familiar and transposes it into the mysterious.

photo 3Being an artist can sometimes be frustrating. What are the obstacles you have run into preparing “A colony of things”?

James: Installing Colony of Things involved the same technical challenges and frustrations experienced by any installation artist. In this case, it was hanging a very heavy wall sculpture on a stud-and-drywall gallery. We were once taught how to draw, paint, and make art. But most of us aren’t carpenters or welders. Yet, we forge on into those trades unprepared to meet the requirements. So, figuring out how to do something in a trade you’ve had no training or experience in can be very frustrating and potentially dangerous. If you’re smart, you cultivate friendships with carpenters and welders.

James Mulchinock, thank you very much for this interview.

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The beauty of cast drawing

I never thought I could enjoy spending hours and hours sketching or painting a cast. Being an aries, accepting slow progress has not really been my forte. However, since becoming a student at the Academy of Realist Art in Victoria, founder and teacher Noah Layne has taught me an important lesson: slow progress is still progress.

“Cast drawing is a wonderful way to work on one’s ability to see and record shapes and sharpen one’s eye”, says Noah. He rightly insists that if you manage to sketch or paint one square cm or inch perfectly, you will be able to do the same on a canvas the size of a skyscraper – it’s just a matter of focus, perseverance and time.

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My third semester at the Academy was amazing, using both comparative measurement and sight-size techniques, then starting to capture a cast of my choice in oil paint.

I never thought I would say this, but I loved it. Every second, every square inch!

Thanks, Noah!

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More information: Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art

 

 

 

 

 

My latest ‘lemon squares’

Oil painting series ‘lemon squares’ by Daniela Herold (2016)

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“I thought of you in Paris”, my godchild Lilly wrote to me yesterday. “I saw Manet’s lemon – it’s beautiful!”

I couldn’t agree more. Manet’s oil painting of a single lemon from 1880 is ‘lovely’ – for lack of a better word.  For hundreds of years, painters have chosen lemons as objects in their art – for instance Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1684), Luis Melendez, Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) or Edouard Manet in the late 19th century, to name but a few.

But what is it about lemons that they are so often featured in still lifes? Is it their bold colour? Their unique shape and texture? Is it how they reflect light?

All of that is true – and they are simply great fun to paint! Here is my latest series of my ‘lemons squares’, enjoy 🙂

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Further lemons:

Check out Noah Layne’s website – he’s the master of lemons
http://www.noahlayne.com/Lemons,BaggedandBoxed.html

 

 

 

There is always more to learn …

Marcus Aurelius

Last week, I  finished my cast drawing semester under the guidance of Noah Layne at the Realist Academy in Victoria, B.C. Working beside this amazing Canadian artist – who teaches dispassionately and without holding back  –  was a constant reminder to me that there is more to learn beyond whatever proficiency I might already have. And I recognized how little I really know compared with true masters of the arts.

Completing this second part of my apprenticeship with Noah meant fulfillment. Only by exposing myself to someone better than I have I been able to improve my skills and techniques. But technical knowledge alone is not enough: disciplined study can foster a student’s growth in many ways.

Noah has taught me to allow patience and stillness to take over when my impatience was starting to kick in while working on a sketch or a painting.

‘Do not rush’, he said. ‘If you manage to paint one square inch perfectly, you will also be able to perfectly paint a canvas the size of a skyscraper  – just take your time.’

Once I managed to calm my mind, I was able to patiently concentrate on finishing the smallest detail.

More information:
Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art / Victoria, B.C. Canada
www.noahlayne.com

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Charcoal ‘Marcus’ by Daniela Herold at the Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art in Victoria, B.C.

The need to belong

Series ‘be-longing’ by Daniela S. Herold at Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan

'Lemonisity' by D.S. Herold

‘Lemonisity’
Oil on board by D.S. Herold

In 1970, American psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that belonging was an essential and prerequisite human need that had to be met before one could achieve a sense of self-worth. 

I immigrated to Canada in 2004 after having lived in different countries for the last 20 years. The theme of migration and identity has concerned me for years – I know what it is like to leave ‘home’ and move to a new place, where unfamiliar people become neighbours, colleagues and friends.  However, I have always moved by choice with a job, a loving partner or a place waiting for me. I was the fortunate one – unlike hundreds of thousands of refugees who know about displacement, having moved out of their native home and country due to civil wars, persecution or natural disasters.

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‘The essence’ by D.S. Herold

Today, my friend Rosemary and I finished hanging 35 paintings from my latest series titled ‘be-longing’ at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan.  The show is close to my heart because it focuses on growing roots, being connected and belonging with others. The exhibition can be seen until the end of January 2016.

‘Humans have a natural need to belong with others.
To belong means to be connected.’

Why is the topic of belonging such a common theme in literature, music and the arts?

The need to belong is rooted in evolutionary history. Human beings are social animals who have always depended on having close connections in order to survive and reproduce. In our daily life, we seek out those who are most similar to us because we feel that we can relate to them and they can understand us.

As an immigrant, I wanted to belong and to grow roots here in Canada – I have been longing to be part of this culture while at the same time needing to stay close to my European roots.

Humans have a natural need to belong with others. To belong means to be connected. As for me, the word home is connected just as much to a place as it is connected to a person. In that sense I felt I could take the word ‘belonging’ apart (BE-LONGING) as in ‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.

'Camouflage’. Oil on board

‘Camouflage’. Oil on board by D.S. Herold

Every time you are taken out of your ‘heart community’, there is a void that yearns to be filled. For me, the alienation was caused by my move to another country. For many, the feeling can be the result of the scattering of their families, the break-down of traditional groups or the disappearance of a village familiarity where everyone knows everyone. Millions of people are taken out of their heart communities as I am writing these lines – the stories of their suffering during the current refugee and migrant crisis in Europe are enormous.

‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.’

A friend asked me whether ‘the artist and nationality’ are a central theme in my art. About a year ago, when I started the series ‘be-longing’, I was wondering how important nationality would (have to) be? At one point it confronted me with quite a dilemma: how could I – as a German-Canadian artist – portray ‘Germanness’ in general if all symbols of Germany are tainted by the past? The artist Anselm Kiefer already asked that existential question in the 1960s.

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‘As snug as a bug in a rug.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold

When I was reflecting on my own sense of nationality and what it means for me as an artist, I came across a quote by Saltire Award winner Meaghan Delahunt that I really liked. She wrote in 2003: ‘It is not the responsibility of the artist to present a comfortable or ‘identifiable’ picture of the nation in which they were born or in which they live, and they should be free to write about whatever they see fit in whatever language they see fit.’  

This project left me with the interesting question: how important is my nationality in the context of belonging when I compare it to other staples of my life, e.g. my family, my friends, networks, groups, environment etc? As it turned out, nationality has been only one aspect of many.

Belonging has a lot to do with getting recognition and developing self-esteem. According to Maslow, we only develop self-esteem when we are anchored in community. At the end of the day it is the community that gives us the recognition for our achievements, and it is the community that respects us for our mastery in a certain field.

How we portray and express this human need of belonging, so deeply ingrained in our nature, is very individual – as is the artistic presentation of the topic around it. I want my viewers to create their very own story of my art – that is why my paintings leave a lot of room for imagination and assumptions.

Of course there is ‘my’ story behind every painting, but what would art be if it doesn’t reach out and touch your life? What makes me tick is when my paintings manage to hold your attention for a while, when they can inspire you or make you wonder.

Why art? Because.

Daniela S. Herold

 


Further information : Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

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‘In unison.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold

 

 

Paintings/Photographs by D.S. Herold  / Copyright 2015