Friday, December 21, 2012

Nexus series - Totem Poles

One of the projects Keith has worked on this year is a series of totem poles
using old fence posts that are made from African hardwoods such as Leadwood (combretum imberbe) and Mopane (colophospetmum mopane).
This wood has stood rooted in the granitic soil  of South Africa's lowveld for hundreds of years. First as a living tree, then later as cattle farming came to this wildlife area, these trees were shaped into everlasting corner posts for cattle fences.
They have weathered and baked in the lowveld heat, seasonally pounded by rain, and seared by droughts that we can only speculate upon. Every natural surface of these posts tells a story, and has been used by other species - great and small, as habitat or rubbing post.

Each post seems to house an individual spirit of its natural environment.
To work on them, Keiths studio was outside in the broken shade of a big old Bird Plum Tree (berchemia discolor) that is wrapped in a Python Creeper.

The theme of these totems is the nexus of life and death
The living tree, lives on in the fence posts and sculptural artworks. Each post is endorsed with images and bronze work, both gathered and formed by the artist.  The images arise out of the sense of the ancient wood - each determined by forms, curves and fissures shaped by natural events in the history of the tree.

The bronze frogs were cast from a dessicated frog form that was collected from a sand track in northern Botswana and cast in bronze.  The frog may have died crossing the baking sand too far from the nearest waterhole. The detail of its living form was perfectly preserved and has been cast to include the tiniest detail.  The bronze frogs appear to be migrating along the fissures of the leadwood post.

Snakes are often used to symbolise transformation and change.  They would also have investigated, and perhaps used, these very poles - as would the lizards of many colours.  All form part of the living ancient landscape that is holistically encompassed in the Nexus series.

These totem poles can be viewed at
Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg


Charl said...

Lovely idea. Have seen so many amazing fence posts - the canvasses must be almost endless.

Val said...

Charl - they are and these posts seem to epitomise the depth of history connecting all living and planetary things! I wish you could view them. Exhibition in February in Joburg in case you are in the country then?