Saturday, July 03, 2010

The "Leafing Through History" sculpture

click photos to enlarge
I'm a fan of public sculpture. In fact, I am so in favour of it that I'd rather see mediocre public sculpture than none at all. At its best a good piece interests, challenges, excites and intrigues. It adds something positive to its location. At its worst it is an eyesore, a feature that degrades the place where it stands. This much I've said elsewhere in the blog. I've also added that street furniture - seating, railings, etc - that try to combine utility and the aesthetic qualities of sculpture rarely work. What I haven't articulated previously, however, is my general dislike of modern, public wood sculpture. This is often "environmentally" themed, featuring wild animals, birds, and plants, and frequently has a "rustic" finish. I've seen an example that combines the above with the function of a path-side seat; one that was uncomfortable at the best of times, and unusable when damp (i.e. for much of the year).

Consequently, when I come across a good example of the genre I often take a photograph of it. That happened during my recent visit to Pershore in Worcestershire. Today's photographs show the two sides of a sculpture of part of the trunk of a beech tree next to Pershore Abbey (enlarge the smaller of these two recent images to see the context). It is called, "Leafing Through History", and was carved in 2007 by Tom Harvey. This much I know from the accompanying plaque. It appears to represent the act of reading about the past, or is about the past itself, and has wildlife - a fox, butterflies, flowers - a tree, and the sun and moon as a backdrop to the figures. The piece is unusual, in my experience, by being carved from the upper part of a tree trunk that is still anchored in the ground. More than that though, the under-cutting is much deeper than is usually the case these days, and that gives much deeper shadows and better formed subjects. And the composition is more inventive: too often the sculpture retains the "lumpiness" of the original piece of wood and is more in the nature of a relief than a sculpture. That is certainly not the case here. Of the two faces I admire the complex composition, but prefer the single hooded figure. Is it meant to represent one of the monks of the adjacent abbey? Is it Robin Hood having a literary break from robbing the rich and giving to the poor? I don't know. But, I do like the way the figure seems to grow, organically, out of the tree, and that was what I aimed to capture in my photograph.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 33mm (66mm/35mm equiv.) (25mm (50mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/00 (1/250)
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 (-0.3) EV
Image Stabilisation: On