The Bee House
A little while ago I spent two years or so living in a small white cottage at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It was a beautiful place. At my back door was an ancient photinia hedge through which I looked out upon a small dam, with a tree planted on its banks. The neighbours cows occasionally wondered about. Beyond that idyll, the blue, Blue Mountains sat quite close, and the birds from the bush over there regularly visited my oasis. It was also a strange place though. Between my plot and the wilderness, the land dipped down into a gaping scarred hole of barren desert that stretched from me to the mountains. This Big Hole was constantly alive with all manner of machinery and noise, trucks coming and going, filling and emptying, beeping and roaring.
This was the mark of our quarry on the landscape, or what’s left of it. Thousand upon thousand of tons of sand and river stone have been taken over the past fifty years to build the greater part of our city, what we live and work in, what we walk on and drive over. What the machines were doing was crafting, sculpting, shaping what’s left of the land into a huge lake, a lake called “the Wildlife lake” in a process that is called “The remediation process”.
The other strange thing was that when I first arrived at the empty cottage, at the back door, in the sunroom on the old lino was a carpet of dead bees. I had no broom with which to sweep them up for a while, so they lay there, a mass bee grave of little bee bodies. I found out later that there had been a hive of wild bees in the roof, but the landlord had sent a group of workers, who came and duly killed the bees and burnt the hive. I called the place, the bee house.
This body of work is a response to being in that house, watching the new lake form, being with the mountains. I felt a kind of helplessness as an artist there. What good were my small marks in the face of the huge, changing mark on the land that I was daily presented with? I could do nothing but be there. Be in the Bee house. Honour the bees and their gifts. Their community, their creation of beauty and order, as artisans and collaborators, and as the pollinators of the world.
In the work, the paper speaks of the forests. It also pays homage to the makers of the paper, artisans who take the forest resource and fashion something beautiful with their hands. The marks are made using pokerwork, a craft of our ancestors. It‘s the slow deliberate burning of a pattern, a decoration. The domestic and essentially female act of ironing is what activates the beeswax, provides structure and binds the work together. Gold leaf, pure, warm, conductive can be seen to represent our human thinking and interpretation.
The geometries are an ancient language known by all. They are the perfect forms found in nature and the universe that underwrite all being. For me they give hope that in our constant process of synthesis, we will eventually arrive at an order, a state of stasis, and will live in harmony with ourselves, with each other and with our environment.