23 February 2020

Time

All art is ephemeral. Nothing that human beings create lasts forever. Time marches on and with each passing year every human artefact deteriorates until ultimately it will be gone. This is true of The Parthenon , true of Stonehenge, true of ancient aboriginal images under rock ledges deep in Australia's hinterland, true of Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Young Man" and true of  all of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World. It is just a question of time.

In 1999, a young sculptor called Jason Thomson was commissioned to carve a dead tree in one of our local parks. He called his piece "Beasts of Brincliffe" and it was a labour of love. Several animals were carved into it including a fox and a hare but the artefact was dominated by a barn owl with outspread wings.

In the past twenty years I have photographed it on a number of occasions - observing its gradual deterioration. But this afternoon I concluded that it has reached a point where new onlookers would hardly believe that it was ever a sculpture. It  has become little more than a rotten stump. In the panoply of human history, twenty one years is not long for the lifespan of a sculpture - even though it was admittedly wooden.

Now it is just food for woodlice and insect larvae, a place for birds to rest briefly - surveying the park that surrounds them. The Art is gone and only the memory remains.
August 1999
September 2011
January 2015
February 2020

43 comments:

  1. Nature's "art", YP. Your photos a beautiful document as to how time does impose itself.

    U

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    1. I am glad that there isn't a similar series of photographs of me... a strapping healthy man turning into a rotten stump.

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  2. Rather sad. I'm wondering if there would have been some finish that could have been put on the carving to protect it. There are carvings in a town near to us that have been around for longer than the twenty years of this piece, and they are still in excellent condition. Or maybe the artist wanted his work to return to nature so purposely did not use a protective coating. Your photo progression is another form of art that adds to the carving's history.

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    1. You are right to suggest that a protective coating could have delayed the deterioration. But it couldn't have stopped it.

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  3. A very good example of how nothing human-made is eternal. All things must pass. This is just a speeded-up version due to the medium.

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    1. You are right. Speeded up - but if the carving had been in marble it would also have disappeared - the only difference being that it would have taken much longer.

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  4. A shame that such a beautiful creation has disintegrated, however, as you say, it has provided a source of food and shelter for many small creatures so not all bad.

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    1. At least there are photographs of it - to remember how it was.

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  5. The day though gavest, Lord is ended.

    The last verse of that hymn came to mind reading this post.

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    1. It's funny how things can draw words from inside us just like that.

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  6. So pleased you took all those photos to show the deterioration, that's nature for you.
    We had some carved badgers in one of our parks and they have gone the same way. Lovely to look at when new though.
    Briony
    x

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    1. But also evocative as Time takes a hold.

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  7. You've made me realise that if I went back to New Zealand today, 15 years since I first went, many of the similar carvings which were very popular when I was there will no longer be there or will soon be gone. In the greater scheme of things it is pretty minor but in my mind they will always be where they were. I cannot imagine them not being.

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    1. Those carvings are like our memories of long ago and times and people that mattered to us. Though they are gone, they are no less real.

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    1. I have read that poem and I see why you made the connection.

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  9. I love that you have shown us this series of photos. They are sad and beautiful at the same time. They are life and life is always changing before our eyes but often the change is so slow we need time and distance to see it.

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  10. I think it's entirely appropriate that nature reclaimed it, beautiful as it was. We're all just endlessly recycling matter, after all.

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    1. In fact our bodies are just products of recycling.

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  11. The Story of Life.

    It's a shame some kind of preservative wasn't applied to halt the disintegration...the decomposition. Some kind of preservative that didn't mask the sculptors brilliant work.

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  12. I like what Jennifer said. I guess we're all ultimately worm food, even sculptures in this case. Perhaps the artist wanted it to be reclaimed by nature.

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    1. Or maybe he just wanted his fee and hadn't thought too much about the deterioration.

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  13. Well photographed and a good illustration of your point that nothing lasts forever.

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  14. The end photograph is very beautiful in its decay. Perhaps art should always be transitory, it makes room for the next artist.

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    1. Can you see the plaque on a concrete stub at the base of the tree? One day it may be there with absolutely nothing behind it.

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  15. Interesting photos YP, and I agree with some of the other comments that it's sad some kind of preservative wasn't applied when the carving was finished. True, it wouldn't stop eventual decay, but would have preserved it for a few more years and for another generation to enjoy.

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    1. You are right to suggest that preservatives would have only delayed the inevitable CG.

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  16. I'm all with Bonnie on this one, and along the lines almost everybody else here has written in their comments. Sad but beautiful.
    Are you familiar "Life After People"? It is a 2006 or 2009 documentary, turned into a TV series (as far as I know, there is also a book). The whole concept of what happens to a place when humans stop interfering is one I find endlessly fascinating, hence my liking for abandoned/ruined buildings, overgrown paths and gardens and so on.

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    1. I think that explains my fondness for such places too.

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  17. When Churchill College Cambridge was officially opened in the early 60's, there was a 'modern sculpture' in the entrance lobby made from old cogs, and wheels, etc. Those naughty student wags had decided to add to the work, and it ended-up about three times its original size. The sculptor wasn't amused.

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    1. Ha-ha! I like that story of an evolving sculpture.

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  18. Fascinating. Makes me ponder about how many wonderful wooden sculptures might have been made in the past that we will never know about because there is no trace left! ... Interestingly, in the 2015 picture my imagination sees an old man half asleep; and in the last one, a dying dragon giving its last wail...

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    1. Of course in the past many of our ancestors created wooden structures. Most of them went the same way as "Beasts of Brincliffe".

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  19. It was very beautiful.

    I follow the hashtag "visible mending" on instagram and really enjoy seeing how people reclaim things that are in some kind of decay or damage process. I'm not sure what point i'm making but if there are any instagrammers here they might like it?

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    1. I will have a look at that Kylie. Thanks for the heads up.

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  20. That's quite a bit of deterioration. I wonder if it had some help along the way? It was really nice when it started out.

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    1. I guess the rate of rotting will depend on the species of tree.

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