Africa Geographic magazine have just posted an interview on their Blog about my creative process, and the highs and lows of the 52 Artworks – A Year in Nature project at http://blog.africageographic.com/africa-geographic-blog/wildlife/52-artworks-in-52-weeks-interviewing-noel-ashton/
This coming Sunday my A Year in Nature exhibition will be opened at the Cape Gallery, an event clearly defining the rhythm of my life at the moment as each artwork is critically assessed, photographed, the edges prepared and hanging toggles attached. These are the practical issues, all which cover the inner anticipation of hanging this show and inviting the public to see the artworks themselves for the first time. The few who have edged their way into the studio usually express their surprise at the scale of the paintings, an aspect difficult to gauge from the Internet images and Africa Geographic publications. Others speak of the volume of work, especially the amount of painting that I managed to achieve in a week, and on reflection, even I am surprised at this, which partially explains why my weeks seem much longer now that the year is over. As to the success of the artworks themselves, that I will leave up to you, and invite you to come and view the originals, and to share in many of the experiences which defined a year which I will never forget.
The A Year in Nature exhibition will be opened by Peter Borchert, Founder of Africa Geographic, with a few words by Michaela Strachan, BBC wildlife presenter, at the Cape Gallery, Church Street, Cape Town on Sunday at 16h30. The exhibition will then be on view during normal business hours till Saturday 27 October. To preview the works on show, you can go to the Cape Gallery page
My Mapungubwe Revisited sculpture (52Artwork #42) was officially unveiled at a gala evening at the Mapungubwe Museum, where it was displayed alongside the original 152 mm gold rhino. This event, sponsored by HSBC Africa, once again showed the incredible levels of concern around the plight of the rhino, and offered me an opportunity to share my perspectives of re-evaluating our relationship with the earth around us based on the approaches of two artists working eight hundred years apart. The theme of ‘Ancient meets Contemporary’ was well received, and to date eight of the twelve gold-leaf rhinos have been sold, as well as 16 bronzes, all in aid of the wonderful work WWF-SA is doing through its rhino programme. This was an extraordinary event which left me deeply humbled.
Last Wednesday marked another important milestone along the 52 Artworks journey, for the gold-leaf version of Mapungubwe Revisited was launched in The Darwin Room at the Everard Read’s extraordinary CIRCA venue, an event which turned into a significant evening as sales worth R215 000.00 were achieved. Wine, friendship, and a meeting of shared values turned this into an unforgettable occasion.
Amongst the invited guests and presenters were Dr Morne Du Plessis, CEO of WWF-SA, myself, Mark Read, and Dr Andrew Baxter, Head of Business Development WWF-SA.This was the first time that the gold-leaf version of Mapungubwe Revisited was displayed, a special edition which is being limited to only twelve before production is stopped. The bronze version, of which only one hundred will be released, was also on display and attracted buyers as well. And then there is the single pure gold Mapungubwe Revisited sculpture – lets’ wait and see…
Apart from the wonderful pledges and sales, the evening also gave me an opportunity to share with the audience the messaging and narrative that I link to this sculpture, that of the thread between myself and the artist who created the Mapungubwe gold rhino 800 years ago, inviting us to revisit the rhino, and seeing them not only as a spectacular mammal that deserves the right of protection and life, but also reminding us that the natural world around us is much more than a commodity, a space or a view, they are all intrinsic aspects of who we are and where we come from, and that each rhino killed or tract of land destroyed is another part of ourselves lost.
For we must not forget that the rhino walks beside us along the trail of life, each an integral part of our inter-connected world.
Now we move onto the official launch of Mapungubwe Revisited on the 19th September at the Mapungubwe Museum, where the two gold rhinos – the original from the royal burial, and Mapungubwe Revisited, will be displayed together.
To see the original 52Artwork posting of Mapungubwe Revisited, click here
Click on image to enlarge
The earth quietens and the dawn chorus settles to a hushed stillness, the grassy plain edged with columns of rock plinths standing proud, awakening to the warmth of the rising sun as another day unfolds in the far reaches of the Cederberg mountains.
A lone buzzard takes off from its vantage point of sandstone rocks overlooking the broad valley, the sweep of its wings opening to the air, launching itself into an invisible world of currents and updrafts, adjusting to gentle nuances of airflow, rocking slightly, touching the wind with the tips of its wings, a silent knowing drifting upon the breath of the dawn. Waiting, till it senses the push of the earth’s rising heat which will give it lift, slowing circling in effortless grace as it surveys the shrinking valley below, and the lone figure of a man as he walks across the plain, looking upwards and dreaming of flight.
This sculpture will be included in the 52Artworks – A Year in Nature exhibition to be held at the Cape Gallery, Church Street, Cape Town from the 8th till 27 October. Please ensure you are on our mailing lists (noelashtonwildlifestudio on Facebook, Blog or email) if you wish to know more about this and other events, as well as publications and talks around the 52Artworks journey.
I plan to continue posting events, creative journeys, new paintings, sculptures and narratives to this Blog, so, for now, thank you for joining me on this journey, it has been wonderful as an artist to be able to share my work and words, and to everybody who has made contact, posted comments or just walked this trail of life with me, it has been unforgettable and life enriching.
Next week I will be posting the final artwork in the 52Artworks – A Year in Nature journey that I have been sharing with you, a significant point that marks what could be termed an end, but, as with most journeys along the path of life, it has rather become a milestone offering an opportunity to pause and reflect, and then to continue along the now altered route resulting from all the experiences during the past year that have shaped my future. Such is the story of life, for each segment of the trail does not stand alone, but rather forms a new foundation, and colours the contours for the next phase of life.
For as soon I have posted number 52, seven of the artworks will be carefully transported to the ‘Reds 4 Rescues’ event being held on Wednesday evening at Diemersfontein Wine Estate, just outside Wellington, an opportunity to display some of the work and share some of the stories. The ‘Reds 4 Rescues’ event is a Wellington SPCA initiative, where Reds stands for ‘red wine’, with more information being available at www.wellingtonspca.co.za.
The delay in posting number 52 has partially been due to an unusual week of many engagements, meetings and interviews outside of the studio, as well as my wish to end this series of artworks by rising to a real challenge of a final sculpture that will stand over a metre high and involves fairly complex form and balance. So, as long as it doesn’t fall on my head, next week will be the final posting of a sculpture in the 52 Artworks series. But the journey does continue…
Last week we visited the new wildlife care facility at the SPCA, and here we encountered Willow, a honey badger orphan well on her way to recovery and release by Brett Glasby and his dedicated team. A feisty, all-muscle and boundless energy little mammal very much maligned in our world of unnatural high density honey farming. She was picked up at an early age, lost and wandering randomly near Napier, and it was her lucky day when she ended up at the SPCA, where care is of paramount importance, and her release back into the wild a much anticipated and carefully planned event.
Painting Willow turned out to be just as challenging as standing in her enclosure and keeping any objects safe, Belinda’s bag almost became a toy, and her teeth tended to keep us very vigilant. And it was these very teeth that kept me vigilant as an artist as well, for as the painting neared completion, just standing close to the easel felt a very risky move, expecting the brush to be tugged out of my hand and stripped before my finger was quickly skinned….
Interestingly though, Willow had a great capacity for gentleness, coming up to say hello and inquisitively looking into your eyes, gauging every move, and never stopping, trundling off this way and that, to look, to smell, and then back to see if we had anything of interest to offer. What stood out for me was her intelligent inquisitiveness, something which became the creative motivation for this painting, and a chance to share this wonderful encounter with another of these extraordinary small mammals, our wild neighbours.
The 52Artworks – A Year in Nature Exhibition
The culmination of the 52Artworks journey will be an exhibition to be held at The Cape Gallery in Church Street, Cape Town between the 8th and 27th October 2012. An exhibition walk-through event is being planned.
If you wish to receive notification of this or any other Wildlife Studio event, please stay in touch via my website at http://www.noelashton.com/receive-email-notification/ or follow (Like) on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NoelAshtonWildlifeStudio
Click on image to enlarge
Do you know of the silent hour before the coming of the sun when the million stars of the Milky Way’s path carry the imagination beyond the now and into the depths of the infinite?
Do you remember what it is to walk barefoot upon the earth and sense that you are at one with these ancient soils of Africa, connected across time in a land where man first rose with the dawn and followed these same paths, and can you find him within your deepest memory?
And do you remember what it means to be silent and to touch the earth, not with you hands but through the echoes of your soul and the breath of consciousness, making visible your connection to the world around you, where the song of the wind and flow of the river are as much a part of you as the call of the owl on a windless night?
And turbulent skies and scent of the first rains not a signal to take refuge, but an invitation to encounter the world and rejoice in these gifts of the now, for without knowing the rain we shall be blown away like a dying discarded husk, tumbling towards an endless nowhere.
Do you wish to know again the sense of being fully alive and not lost in our rush towards tomorrow, those parts of you now hidden but fortunately not forgotten, waiting for you to walk upon the ancient soils of Africa with the warmth of the sun upon your back, or to sit at the fireside as a full moon rises over the plain, and to listen, for in the silent spaces between heartbeats you will know again what it means to be human, blessed by every dawn and moved by every dusk, alive and complete in a world of infinite possibility.