Imperfect symmetry


Balance makes life easier to cope with.  It’s not surprising that evolution has, in general terms favoured symmetry in nature.  A tree is more likely to keep standing if balanced, a leaf more likely to catch the moving sun, and a seed more likely to find the right direction to grow.  It’s my belief that symmetry has become a comfort to us as we have always lived along side it whether we have ever thought about it or not.  It makes some sense then that in our aesthetic appreciation, in general we find symmetry pleasing.


What has become something of a fascination to me is something that I have come to call “imperfect symmetry”.  The symmetry that we live amongst is in fact a “more or less” symmetry.  As a boatbuilder my initial drawing will start out being as accurate as I can make them using the absolute of numbers and mathematics.  My little mind can only take this so far though and the boats are completed by my own hand and eye, and being far from perfect myself my product isn’t either, it’s imperfect.


I think of nature in this way, trying, at the root of life with the ideal of perfect symmetry, but as the conditions of the soil, the aspect, prevailing weather, surrounding flora, potential grazers etc etc….. The result again is an imperfection.  To me it is the imperfect that tells the story, it tells of the life, not just of the ideal.


In this piece the rich brown timber which ordinarily would be light golden are the result of a parasite on the tree, an unplanned influence of life, that turns the ordinary into the exceptional.  It’s true that I have a weakness for affected timber, I like to see the imperfect story.


This is the first of many made in this way, they are all different sizes colours.  I have matched boards which have been together in a tree so they have symmetry, though the cutting, drying and preparation process removes some of the accuracy of that relationship.  Giving balance without perfection.  To me this is a representation of life as it really is.  My own carving and gilding between the boards is guided by the rays either side, it ties the boards together with my own imperfect hand.

These are boards that I have had for a few years.  It is difficult for me to cut into boards like this as I value them very highly, beyond the price that I have paid for them, they are unique.  Beautiful timber doesn’t always make beautiful furniture though, or bits of boats, it can be wasted when a plainer wood could be used for form alone.  That is why I decided to present these boards as nothing too complicated in form, so that story of the timber itself is not lost.



Categories: Artwork

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