Awakening the storyteller, and launching HumanNature

Noel Ashton - Under the Oak2

I sit in silence under the old weathered oak, waiting for the poet’s return, those gentle voices of the soul that cannot be heard amongst the cacophony of life; but here, under the ancient bough amidst the calm of the earth, the seeds of thoughts begin to appear like the first tiny drops of rain onto a landscape of belonging.

I pick up an acorn, and soon see many scattered around the base of the tree – for the past few weeks I have watched the acorn-pickers, bent backs and hurried hands shuffling below many of these great ancient oaks of Greyton, collecting these seeds of pure potential which now carry my own thoughts to the past year in the country, and to the many journeys that have brought me to this moment. Between encounters with the extraordinary wild horses of Greyton and their spirited temperaments, I have had the space to review my body of work as an artist, especially the sculptures, and I began to notice that there were some which just couldn’t be placed in my journeys into the worlds of whales and dolphins, wildlife and birds, some which just didn’t fit the mould. I soon realised that these works spoke of a different journey, with many holding elements of symbolism and deeper meaning, speaking of a journey within, and a search for the truth.

Sacred Ocean in the Aquarium, The Wayfinders, and sculpting Mapungubwe Revisited

Sacred Ocean in the Aquarium, The Wayfinders, and sculpting Mapungubwe Revisited

These included some of the public works, including Sacred Ocean and its exploration of the dichotomies and complexity of the human condition, and Mapungubwe Revisited, and its sacred thread of belonging linking us to the land, and the unseen works, such as the Terianthrope, exploring our journey as a people from the painted caves of the San to the hum of the Hadron Collider, and the Mandela sculpture, speaking of potential and living the highest expression of ourselves.

For many years now, in the quiet times, I have been thinking and writing about these topics, and as we prepare to return to Cape Town, the time has come to link these sculptures to the texts and to share them, and in the vein of 52- Artworks where thoughts and narratives were combined with works of art, I will launch HumanNature, centered around what I am calling ‘Conversations in the third dimension – about life, meaning, happiness and awakening consciousness, and how these shape our relationship with the environment and frame our society’.

Rawiri Parantene visits Sacred Ocean

On a trip from New Zealand, Rawiri Paratene visits Sacred Ocean

When we launched Sacred Ocean, one of the most profound moments was when Rawiri Paratene gave the sculpture a sacred Maori blessing which spoke to the threads of life and their intertwined nature. Fortunately this moment was captured on film which I will edit and post soon, but in the meantime I thought I would disperse the seeds of potential around the HumanNature initiative in the hope that by sharing its beginnings, they will fall on fertile ground and attract the energy of growth…in the gentle shade of an ancient old oak under the blue African sky.

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My annual mini exhibition

For a virtual viewing, click on any image
Green is the colour of spring‘ is the theme for this year’s mini exhibition that I have just hung at Ellies Bistro at the Cape Dutch Nursery in Noordhoek. This small body of impressionistic work was inspired by the Greyton surrounds, I suppose it was inevitable that my creative output would stretch beyond the horses when living in such a beautiful place. An original Christmas gift for someone special!

Wind-Horse in Cavalli exhibition

Wind-Horse by Noel Ashton A6300

Wind-Horse photographed outdoors

The first of the artworks to come out of my focus on the horse, a bronze sculpture titled ‘Wind-Horse’ is now on show as part of the Equus exhibition at the prestigious Cavalli Estate near Stellenbosch.

Wind-Horse bronze by Noel Ashton A6300

Wind-Horse in bronze L 840mm x H 330mm

It was with a sense of relief that I listened to the opening address by the Curator, Carina Du Randt, as it had been a busy few months preparing this piece for the show, including the lengthy and exacting casting process.

Freedom by Noel Ashton A6300

Freedom. Acrylic on canvas 910mm x 760mm

A new painting titled ‘Freedom’ has also been included in the Equus show. A friend of ours owns this beautiful and spirited Arab, features which inspired me to try and capture it in full flight…there seems to be a trend of working with movement developing out of my work with horses.


Fire and Bronze – the casting of Wind-Horse Part 1

windhorse web a6300

The original sculpture of Wind Horse

In anticipation of the exhibition opening at the Cavalli Estate later this month, the team at the Kalk Bay Foundry have been hard at work preparing Wind Horse for its first bronze casting. Using techniques many thousands of years old in order to convert my original which was made of ball clay into bronze, a multi-step process is underway which I felt might be interesting to share…

Fire and Bronze 2

Stage One – making silicone moulds of the sculpture

Bronze sculptures are almost always released in limited editions, of say twelve or twenty-five individual pieces. In order to reproduce the horse in bronze so that it is identical to the original each time, a series of silicone moulds first need to be taken of the original. The reason for this is that each new bronze is cast from a hollow wax version of the sculpture, with the wax being lost each time the bronze is poured, hence the term ‘lost-wax process’. Each wax is built up by thin layers of liquid wax being painted into the mould until the desired thickness is achieved.

Fire and Bronze 3

Stage Two – painting wax into the moulds to re-create the sculpture

Once the wax work in the moulds is complete, the different parts of the sculpture can be de-moulded and re-assembled, with the head in the picture above being made of the two halves which have been joined and carefully finished. What cannot be seen here is that the head is actually hollow – bronze sculptures would be extremely heavy and even more expensive if they were solid!

Fire and Bronze 4

Stage three – coating the completed wax in ceramic

When all the wax pieces are complete, and signed-off by the artist, they are coated in a ceramic type material, inside and out, so that the wax is now completely encased in ceramic. In the picture above the shape of the head, neck and legs can be seen. Now the stages of casting using heat can begun…but that will be explored in part 2 as they haven’t happened yet.

Please feel free to share this post if you know of other people who might enjoy it…


Wind-Horse ready for the foundry

windhorse web a6300

WIND-HORSE Length 860mm x Height 370mm

I recently temporarily moved my studio to Greyton to spend some time with the wild horses that live around this special Overberg town, and to focus on a new series of sculptures. I have for a long time wanted to turn my creative eye to these extraordinary animals, but I knew the process would be challenging and long, and a giant leap from anything I have done before.

For how does one speak of the horse, an animal of such symbolic complexity that descriptive words lead the mind through a kaleidoscope of truths – noble, gentle, wild, powerful… an endless list which defines different horses, or even the same horse at a different time. An animal that has been central to our existence for thousands of years, for if you follow the footprints of man through the ages, alongside our own you shall find the tracks of the horse, climbing the same hill, forging pathways into distant lands, pausing at the edge of the cooling stream after a long dusty day, adventures bound along journeys of discovery.

And with this came a deeper knowing, an understanding between species.

As an artist I seek this horse, the one which carried us forward, and still offers us a sense of connection, and if you are seeking something deeper, a mirror to the hidden soul.

Sculpting Wind-Horse

Wind-Horse is the first sculpture along this journey. Last week I delivered it to the foundry as it has been selected to be included in an exhibition in December at the magnificent Cavalli Estate, so now the ten weeks of moulding and casting begins…


The last whale bronze before a new artistic journey begins

Right whale breach A6300r

Right Whale Breach 240h x 140w x 105mm Bronze on marble

Yesterday my latest bronze of a breaching Southern Right Whale returned from the foundry, a commission from one of my collector’s in the UK. Once again Jean of the Kalk Bay Foundry did himself proud, brilliantly casting and patina-ing this little whale which has quickly become one of my favourites. Next week it will be hand-couriered to London where it will join my First Breath sculpture on a mantelpiece.

But with each ending comes the potential of a new beginning, and next week I will also be writing the first post of my new artistic journey, a project which is going to call on all my abilities, no doubt much blood, sweat and tears in search of artistic expression, basically just another day at the office! Actually this is going to be a very serious and focused endeavour, about which much will be revealed over the coming weeks…watch this space!


Africa Geographic interview

Africa Geographic magazine have just posted an interview on their Blog about my creative process, and the highs and lows of the 52 Artworks – A Year in Nature project at http://blog.africageographic.com/africa-geographic-blog/wildlife/52-artworks-in-52-weeks-interviewing-noel-ashton/


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