The story of a big sculpture
by Oliver Harwood
It was a great experience to attend the Saint John International Sculpture Symposium in the summer of 2018 for six weeks. I worked alongside seven other sculptors to cut through tons of granite, each creating our own vision for a public art piece.
The sculpture I did is called Song of the Deep and it invites people to listen to the voices of nature in a new way and hear the life around us. It asks the viewer to consider the music of the ocean … a whole orchestra of sounds and songs we don’t hear. I created an audio graph of a particular Humpback whale song; the visual pattern of the resonance. The Humpback whale in particular is known to compose intricate and beautiful songs up to a half hour in length that transmit up to a mile through the ocean. The songs overlap in depth and volume beneath the waves.
Humback whale song and visualization
For this sculpture I was inspired by the Bay of Fundy with its massive tides that create their own resonance and rhythm, forming macro and micro ripples through the biosphere. These wave patterns merge with sound waves and songs to create intricate and complex overlapping harmonies. The whales are the largest voices in the natural ocean and come to the Bay of Fundy in the summer as their primary feeding ground. We had a wonderful trip to Saint Andrews one day to go out and see them in their habitat.
The sculpture I made has three main elements, the visualization of the whale song supported by granite blocks that have been split, like the song is splitting the earth and stone and reaching into the sky. The side stones form the outer shape (some say it appears as the jaw of a whale) and the resonance patterns extend into these stones, creating new sound patterns.
It was a great experience, setting out to do this sculpture, working through all kinds of hurdles and getting it all together on the second last day! There were a few sleepless nights along the way but it all came together in the end. The best part of the symposium was the camaraderie with the other sculptors and interns and organizers … there was seldom a dull moment.
The last few years I have been consumed with an art related business so have had very little time for my own artwork. Spending six weeks carving granite really drove home the importance to create regularly … to focus on developing one’s voice and ideas at least some time every week.
I am intrigued by wave forms, not the ocean wave forms but sound waves and patterns. They are beautiful and alive in their invisible world, full of energy and direction until they dissipate into stillness.
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