In my work, both abstract and figurative, I juxtapose the concepts of durability and fragility; vulnerability and strength; man-made and nature.
These sculptural pieces, manipulating a new material, appear fragile but are resilient and strong. That fragile quality of life exists within our emotional, cultural and environmental lives. I believe that underlying this sense of vulnerability there exists great strength and resilience.
The genesis of the SOCIAL WARRIORS was the elaborate Scottish military uniforms worn by my father. The notion of the warrior has taken on more significance recently. Social issues are the new battleground and we are all being called upon to protect and preserve our moral values; this is a Call To Arms.
With symbolic weapons and totems, these warriors are armed with ideas, knowledge, strength and determinations. Standing “At The Ready”. Choose your battle.
In recent artwork, I have used cambium fiber of the mulberry tree harvested in rural Laos to convey my concepts. (Link to map). It was traditionally used by the Yao tribe for religious rituals, making rope and the wrapping of opium. Post the Vietnam War it has become part of an initiative to raise the standard of living of these mountain people in the making of paper products. It is an important cash crop and plays a central role in the livelihood of these small tribal groups. (Link to website) The concern for the region is that the increased industrialization and in particular the building of multiple bridges across the Mekong River are opening up this rural area and disrupting the villages way of life.
The wild mulberry regrows annually in fallow areas. Seasonally harvested it is stripped, boiled and pounded and in some cases bleached, then dried. It is at this point, from these small family collectives that I am able to get the bark before it is shipped to Thailand for paper production.
My process in using the cambium fiber from the mulberry tree is to first immerse it in a hardening agent I have developed. It is stretched, formed around templates, dried and removed. Adding natural elements such as branches, lichen and items representing a warrior's weapons and totems of power and strength. In some work I have used natural plant dyes such as pomegranate, madder root, adding another dimension to a piece. As I begin to stretch and manipulate the material the veins of the fiber open revealing a porous network, a magnified look at the organic cellular structure. As these processes and fiber have not been used before there is a great deal of experimentation and risk through which the work evolves.