The Antler Blog
In summer 2007 I decided to explore prehistoric forms of art in my work as artist-in-residence at the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) at Holton Lee. This, it seemed to me, was a means of bringing together the four 'aspects' of Holton Lee: the Arts, the Environment, Personal Growth/Spirituality and Disability/Carers - early forms of art tended to have much closer links to the environment, forefronted the body (of both animals and humans) and often appeared to have religious or ritual significance too.
One of the forms that I was interested in exploring was the antler, used as one of the earliest portable forms of art. According to my research, antlers were used by early artists as surfaces to carve images on - usually of other animals or fish - and later to create images out of, but the earliest forms of antler carving were simple lines, believed, possibly, to mark time passing or to record other events. This resonated for me with the Blog, which is also a record of events and time passing - particularly valuable to me as I have difficulty in making new memories.
Later, research into early forms of painting led me to look at the extremely sophisticated forms of art developed by indigenous Australians. Dot painting often encodes historical events and acts as a storyteller's map, but is made deliberately obscure so that only those it is intended for can read it. In the same way, this Blog is simply a meaningless set of marks on a screen if it is inaccessible to a reader for whatever reason.
As regular Blog readers will know, encounters with deer have marked my visits to Holton Lee, along with the quest to photograh them successfully. I decided that I would record the story of my 17th visit to Holton Lee, which was particularly significant to both my art and my encounters with deer, in a dot-painting form on an antler. This antler was found, not by me (although I have looked hard each autumn), but was a gift in September 2008 from Denise, a Holton Lee friend who volunteers at the carriage-driving stables on the site. It is impossible to tell what its age is, but it is from a fairly young Sika deer (Holton Lee has two wild deer herds; one Sika and one Roe).
I prepared the antler by soaking it in a solution of detergent and bleach and leaving it in the sunshine before repeating the process over a period of weeks. I developed the code over a period of months, but finally spent three days finalising the code before painting the antler in a morning using acrylics followed by a seal of matte spray varnish.
The final object acts as a storyteller's map of my 17th visit to Holton Lee. It physically represents the deer and the making of art that I talk about in my Blog entry, as well as recording these encounters and actions on it in a line of dots that encircles it. The dots also record the passing hours, the weather, the terrain, the meals, the encounters with friends and other animals, insects and invertebrates. Looking at it, it is easy to imagine that, rather than being separated from my audience by space and time, I am sitting in front of the fire in a round house holding up my antler and telling my story to the people sitting next to me.
Click here to read the code.
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