A seed has been planted in the human spirit to nurture creativity and facilitate its perpetuation. Fundamentally, the visual arts have, since human beginnings, provided for this end. The artist experiences satisfaction of the deepest sense as the creative process leads to blossoming and the giving forth of fruits, (it is a commitment to the work to get there) whether emotional, physical or cognitive. Creativity brings the mind to life and conversely, life generates creativity. The seed, embedded in fertile soil, gives life to a plant. It’s spreading branches and foliage reach to the heavens. The roots, deeply founded, seek the earthly core and the trunk serves as a link between the world of Heaven and that of Hell.
Imagination, an essential prerequisite to creativity, I think, serves to generate connections between the conscious world and that of the subconscious. I could be wrong here…I am not an expert on either imagination OR creativity. These are merely my thoughts.
In essence, I believe that the imagination, like a tree, unites Heaven with Earth as it draws images from a mundane experience of sensory perception, while bringing to light all that is mystical and awe-inspiring. Somehow, the tree has become of the most essential of traditional symbols and because it is culturally universal, artists of every background have sought to represent its meaning in the context of their own lives and art. In doing some basic research on the exploration of ‘the tree’ in art, I also found much in the way of written interpretation and in some cases even the artist took on the mantle/metaphor of the tree. A quote from Roger Cook…
I use an image created by Paul Klee in 1940. In fact, it is said in Roger Cook’s The Tree of Life: Symbol of the Centre that Paul Klee, in a famous public lecture published On Modern Art and delivered in 1924, “used the image of the tree to show how the artist is a medium or channel for the transformative processes of nature. ‘From the roots the sap rises up into the artist, flows through him and his eyes. He is the trunk of the tree. Seized and moved by the force of the current, he directs his vision into his work. Visible on all sides, the crown of the tree unfolds in space and time. And so with the work.’ In this drawing Klee places the upright of the K in his signature through the centre of the trunk of the tree, thus symbolically uniting his own creative powers with those of nature herself.” This drawing is in Felix Klee’s collection in Berne.
In Klee’s work, it is easy to discover or re-discover the world of childlike dreams and imaginings. The symbol of ‘tree’ reoccurs often in his work and it is easily noted that beneath the surface of symbols such as bird, cross, house, fish and tree, it is possible to discover all sorts of alternative worlds. We are invited as adults to explore, once again, the naivete of a child, a time when creativity and imagination were ‘on the surface’ of everything. Subsequent to that, Paul Klee’s use of colour, texture and symbolic images evoke a response from the viewer that represents a very particular time or season of great significance. It tweeks memory. Wow! Art has such power and it reminds us of who we are and how we relate with our world. How does this tweek me?
So, I was out on yet another off-leash experience with Max this afternoon when I began to formulate an idea for another piece at St. Albert the Great church…a Giving Tree. I’m writing about the ‘jag’ (the initial action that follows a lengthy period of incubation for the artist) because it was so inspiring and so immediate. I wondered about the physical volume of or presence of a thousand golden leaves and I began instinctively to pick them up in piles of a hundred, only the yellow ones, freshly fallen today. Below, you will see three photographs of 100 leaves; 300 leaves. I will have to collect another 700. I will dehydrate these and then paint each leaf with metallic gold acrylic and later apply them as collage to the Giving Tree. There is something really ‘magical’ about gradually building up textures and layers. It is a truly satisfying process.
It was these leaves that also inspired me to write this afternoon. While I only consider this a beginning to my exploration of the tree as symbol in artists’ works, it is a beginning. I would love to have you share your thoughts with me on this topic. Let me know if you have explored this symbol in your own work. Time for me to go and do some sanding in the studio. Next, writing about Piet Mondrian.