Development drawing in the early stages of the Hidden Green Series.
My name is Ross Byers and I live in Launceston, in the small state of Tasmania. It is a beautiful island that is quite different than the rest of Australia, culturally and in terms of its natural environment.
I am a Participant of The Clipperton Project (TCP).
I am involved to actively consider the themes of TCP, which parallel and extend from what I explore in my work as an artist working in sculpture and drawing.
I look forward to new revelations as we investigate and as I get to work collaboratively with other passionate people.
I discovered TCP existed when browsing an online newsletter in late 2010 when living in Glasgow (2010 – 2012).
Immediately I looked up the website and read everything I could find on the project, as I had a strong response, where I said to myself, ‘I want to risk my life on a boat – these are my people’. Soon after, I had my first contact with a couple of TCP members at a talk at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios, where the much anticipated Clipperton Island Expedition, which later occurred in early 2012, was discussed.
As I sat there and listened, I found a beautiful extension to what I had researched about TCP and what I was hearing directly from the presenters.
So excitedly, without hesitation, I introduced myself to Charles Engebretson and Jon Bonfiglio. My involvement with TCP had begun, beginning with a conversation.
My practice is currently focused on the perpetual shift between the inanimate and living in urban environments.
I explore this through small-scale, modular ceramic sculpture with prominent architectural and geographical motifs.
Often containing earth and living botanical elements they are heavily influenced by, and mostly made during, my residency period in Glasgow.
Whilst there, I observed the overlaps of man’s claims on the natural and nature’s claims on the man made.
I focused on accelerated entropy, particularly observing abandoned and neglected buildings. In my mind’s eye I could see the chronological trail of sweeping winds and the droppings of birds, depositing seeds and the spores of mosses; from humble beginnings, until there before me I could see the vigorous growth of carpets of green and spindly plants, nestled in crevices, in porous surfaces and weakness in the building’s outer skin.
As I worked I contemplated evolutions such as this and had the sensation akin to an outer body experience. I looked down on humanity from afar, as if I were not a human myself.
I call these works The Hidden Green Series. Images from this series will be posted here over the coming weeks.
One of the earliest influences to inform the Hidden Green Series, goes back to when I studied part of my Bachelor of Contemporary Art Degree at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu in 2002.
On various adventures walking through the city, I was mesmerised by the peculiar formations and characteristics of the Banyan tree. These trees appeared throughout the city and I often noticed, usually in parks, people had made them into homes.
I studied these dwellings and could see that by training the aerial prop roots that came down from the branches when still supple, walls, windows and doors, in combination with found materials, could be engineered. Elsewhere in the city there were instances where buildings were built around Banyan trees and others where Banyan trees had been trained to accommodate buildings.
In 2006 on an adventure through Cambodia, I visited the ancient city ruins of Angkor Watt. There I witnessed how over hundreds of years the force of Banyan tree roots had exploded rocks and consumed whole walls. Reflecting upon experiences such as these it is little wonder that I am enthralled by human experience and endeavour juxtaposed with the powers of nature. It is unsurprising that these thoughts have their way into the work I make.
Inspired by these experiences, I want to create for myself a Friedensreich Hundertwasser existence. Hundertwasser an environmentalist, architect and artist, is said to have pre-empted guerrilla gardening and rooftop gardens. I am equally aware that with my remaining lifespan I could only start propagating trees to experiment with the magical forms they could achieve. I would miss the final parts because of my passing from this earth.
Or I could continue with trees that had already had a sculptor at work on them; the baton would be passed to me.
However I did find a way where I could almost have it all. In 2009 I conducted experiments, which unbeknown to me would later lead to The Hidden Green Series, using succulents that share the same aerial prop root characteristic as the Banyan tree.
I filled old socks with soil until they were tight and compressed enough to stand up vertically in a cylindrical form. In the opening of the sock, I planted a variety of succulent called Aeonium, chosen for their distinctive form. I found them aesthetically pleasing and they had the capacity to grow roots from their branches.
As they grew and the roots extended downward seeking soil and water, I trained the aerial roots down the side of the sock, without allowing them to touch the fabric. When at the desired length I allowed contact, and within days they began taking root through the weave. The connection between plant and sock gradually thickened into a trunk. Astonishingly, when established, the original trunk could be cut away if so desired, and the succulent would continue to live. I had filled many old socks with this experiment but they remained curiosities at this point. This seemingly eccentric fascination did inspire an art teacher friend of mine, Kerry Lamb, to take a couple of my samples into her school with her to show her art students and for them to create their own sock plants. It was only during my time in Glasgow that I could position my sock plant experiments in to the context of made art forms.
My focus is about to shift to the ocean; In late November and early December of 2012 I will be travelling to Cozumel Island, Mexico, working with TCP participants and others to conduct research into plastic pollution on the island, and to produce work in response. I am interested to know how my work which has been predominantly land based until now will transform with stimuli supplied by the water and its underworld.