Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Richard Shilling- Art and Meaning

'Cliff Pebble Stack'
"What meaning does doing art have for you?

It has taken weeks for me to answer this question,
not because I haven't been trying, but because I have been
learning more about that answer all the time. Realizing a
little of what that answer might be, I understand that the
search will be a life-long quest.

My art, for me, is like climbing a mountain. The target is
the summit, yet the important part is the journey to the top.
Without the summit to aim for, the journey becomes
less meaningful, the journey not possible without the goal.

When I go out to make something, the "summit" I am
initially aiming for is a sculpture that expresses a part of me
and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. However, those
things on their own are hollow. I seek a a path where my
senses open to all that is around me and I feel I am working
in collaboration with nature. This may sound a bit cliched,
but it truly is the feeling I'm seeking.

I create intuitively and rarely plan what I will make. I
first go to a beautiful, natural place and just wander
around looking, trying to get a feeling for the location. I
will inspect the leaves and watch the insects, searching out
hidden corners and soon enough a rock will inspire an idea
or a beautiful leaf will catch my eye. Or the colour of a
flower will set my imagination racing and the next thing I
know I find I am sitting down and making something.

As I do this I gain a growing feeling for the material,
examining it'sstructure. At the same time I'm noticing the
animals and birds around that place. And the movement
of the sun, or the tide's ebb or changes in the wind.

As I immerse myself in the process and the environment,
I discover more of what I miss day-to-day. I find out my
senses are closed to so much of what is around me. Each
time that I open them, and find out more, I want to do it
again. And again.

Each time I go back and work in the same place,
or with the same material or the same idea, I discover
fresh revelations about how things change over time, how
materials are one way in one season and different in

The whole process is not solely mine. Nature plays her
own part in what I create. I don't just mean the materials
she provides but that she takes a more active role. For
instance the wind will control what I am able to create,
the temperature dictates what you can do with ice, the
sun will move and hide behind a cloud. There are so
many other factors.

Today I made a pebble sculpture but the wind was so
strong that the pebbles blew away. So I had to make
the arrangement on sand so the pebbles would not roll
away. This is exactly what I mean when I say nature
has a hand in the sculpture itself. It happens time and
time again. A successful collaboration with nature must
be simply spot on.

The place and the conditions shape what I end up with.
And often this can change right up to the end as I adapt
to what is happening.

So as I plod on towards the "summit" I discover a little more
about nature, a little more about the seasons, a little more
about myself. I feel I can realize more about myself through
discovery in nature ... as though the two are intertwined. In
that lies the meaning of my art, the reward in the work.

My art is a quest of discovery. Each new discovery I make
reveals to me that there are even more waiting ... waiting for
someone just to take a look and see.
'Color Leaf Sun Star'
Richards work can be seen on Flickr at:
His blog:
His book can be viewed and purchased at:


Sylvie Van Hulle said...

Beautiful post! I loved reading it and recognized a lot of it!

artpropelled said...

Aah, what a treat! Richard's work draws me closer to nature as well. Cliff Pebble Stack is one of my favourites and the leaf star is beautiful.

Jeane said...

thanks Katherine and Richard - I've followed Richard's work for a couple of months now since Robyn featured him on her blog - the cliff pebble stack, one of my favs :)

Katherine said...

Glad you enjoyed it Sylvie! Richard is grand isn't he?

Katherine said...

Robyn and Jeane I picked out the photos, some how I am not surprised we have a favorite in common. I loved reading what he had to say about his his art and how it changes and hones his relationship to nature and himself.

Richard Shilling said...

Thanks so much for putting this up Katherine. It is as though my ramblings almost make sense! (Either that or you guys are as bonkers as me)!

Katherine said...

Both Richard you make sense and thank goodness we are as bonkers as you! Thank you so much for your beautiful art and for sharing your meaning for doing it with us.