Over the years, the focus of my work has continued to be the rich and varied legacy of the Celtic nations. When interpreting my ideas I have used a variety of different media to achieve my required results. Working in bronze, the material of the ancient craftsmen, seems a natural progression for my pieces.
The first two sculptures are Earth Mother images, where the figure is not only part of, and growing from, the elements of the land, but is also the genesis of its bounty. The third work is a shape-changing piece, which was inspired by a found tree root.
In April of 2002 I suffered a brain aneurysm. It affected me in many different ways, not least of all was the effect on my work as a Celtic artist. The pieces I now produce are based around themes of continuation, future, hope, conflict resolution and growth, utilizing the ideas and imagery contained in the mythology of the Celtic peoples. An investigation of the lore of the Earth Mother, a universal symbol not specific to the Celts, became my initial project.
In Celtic religion Danu, or Dana, embodies the female principles of creativity, birth, fertility, nurturing and the cycle of growth. All things come from her, and to her all things return. She is an eternally fruitful source of everything. (Hence Earth Mother).
After much research, many varied notions and brainstorming sketches by the dozen, I had the kernel of an idea, but one with no physical presence. One morning I awoke as if a veil had been lifted and I knew how my idea was to take form.
My sculpture shows a figure which is both of the earth and from the earth. Originating in the dark shadows of the water and rocks, the figure spirals upwards, embracing the lush green of her heavily pregnant belly and the growing vines of the tree of life generated from her hair. The piece terminates in the faceless golden sun of a new day. She represents the interconnectedness of nature and humanity and the cyclical character of existence. She embodies the past, present and the future as ancient ideas meld with present hopes for new beginnings. She is, and always will be, the genesis of the Earth’s bounty.
This sculpture had its beginnings when, while out walking with our family dog, I came across a small but interestingly formed fragment of cottonwood root. The root remained in my studio for about eighteen months as I experimented with different ways of utilising the shapes and textures which had first caught my eye.
Eventually I reasoned that, as I was intending to change both the form and fabric of the root, then I should create a piece about shape-shifting. When looking at my found root I discerned the rudimentary shapes of a snout and a beak, and as both birds and dogs have some significance in Celtic mythology, I decided to base my sculpture on the dog and crow/raven. Shape-shifting, or changing, holds an important place in Celtic lore. It is not that the Celts worshipped animal gods, but rather that their gods could transform themselves at will. For example, The Morrighan, a powerful Irish triple goddess, constantly changes herself from human hag, to young girl, to crow. Surprisingly in Celtic tradition, the dog and the crow/raven have close links. Both have associations with the Mother Goddess, the dog as a symbol of healing and the crow/raven as an emblem of death and destruction, probably due to its carrion habits. As the crow/raven is inextricably linked with The Morrighan, so the dog is similarly allied to Nodens, the British god of healing. The bond is so strong that he is, more often than not, represented in canine form. Both dog and raven have connections to the underworld, in its role as facilitator of rebirth, through their connections with the Mothers.
To depict these complex ideas I have chosen to portray, a combination of both form and symbol implying that, at any time, one might transform into the other, from dog to raven/crow, destroyer to healer, real to mythic. The piece also takes the form of a janus, having two distinct facets, the realistic and the Celtic. Transformation can also take place between these aspects, creating a symbolic link between times past and present. The notion that things are not as they first appear is central to the creed of shape-shifting. To see things in a different light, or from a new angle alters ones understanding and makes it possible to take the next step on the journey of spiritual growth.
The Celtic peoples of ancient Europe relied on the earth and the constant cycles of Mother Nature for their survival. Any variation in the hoped for pattern could prove disastrous. It comes as no surprise, then, that earth worship and fertility symbolism formed a large part of their religious beliefs. The female deities, or Mother Goddesses, as they have become known, are mostly associated with the cycles of reproduction, prosperity and fruitfulness.
Water, as it emerges from the earth as a stream or a well, is seen as a gift from Mother Earth herself, a powerful symbol of both purity and the continuance of life. Water forms the starting point for my figure, her fertility can be seen in the swell of her pregnant belly, and in the strong, vibrant growth of the tree of life generated from her hair. She is at one with the natural world, both creation and creator, the personification of the cyclical nature of existence.