Lae Oldmeadow

The Sacred Seeds

August 20 - September 10, 2011

Lae Oldmeadow has been described as an environmental artist and the title sits well with him as he has spent the last two decades living sustainably and creating art in harmony with the natural world. Lae's assemblages, ‘canopies' and ‘soft sculptures', made reverently from totally organic materials, have a humanising effect. Unlike the optical noise of the constructed, urban environment - where images are quickly glimpsed and passed over - Lae's works resonate a slow, rhythmic pulse and we respond instinctually. In them we can sense the energy of Nature with its cycles of growth and decay - its ceaseless renewal and infinite complexity of form.

Integral to Lae's creative process is the actual sourcing and collecting of his materials amidst the forest floors and coastal sandy tracts of the NSW and Queensland borderlands. These quiet, foraging ventures echo Aboriginal ‘song lines' or ‘dreaming tracks' along which the indigenous people honoured their oneness with the land. Lae is well aware that trees have been universally recognised as archetypal symbols of the interconnectedness and ecology of life. Accordingly, the raw materials for his artmaking are the leaves and barks of fallen Hoop Pines, Melaleucas, Bangalow Palms and Banksias. The works do not so much tell a story, as operate as a kind of aid to contemplation - they have their own existence.

Lae's superb craftsmanship is a vehicle of aesthetic value in itself. The distinctive, upholstered padding which provides the substructure of his works is the consequence of 20 years designing, crafting and exhibiting unique one-off furniture pieces. Lae also lived in a small Greek village for a number of years where he learned traditional methods of stitching and was first introduced to natural hand-woven fibres. The physical properties of materials govern what can be done with them and Lae is a master at evoking meaning without transgressing their inherent nature.

Referencing the generative forces, there are seven works bearing a Sacred Seed title. Each piece begins with a padded, primordial egg shape that symbolises the ‘life-intelligence' being nurtured inside and which, given the right circumstances, will grow to fulfillment. "As in nature, so in creative art practice," says Lae. The sinuous, biomorphic forms that enfold and extend from the eggs are made from the Bangalow Palm. Light absorbing and light reflecting, they have the look and feel of woody scales. Each tiny scale-like segment has been individually sliced from its stem and painstakingly reassembled and attached to its upholstered canvas host. The contrasting smooth, smokey-dark areas have been initially coated with earth ochre sourced in the Northern Territory and then painted and sprinkled with pulverised charcoal from a giant, fire-ravaged tree. The use of charcoal connotes the alchemical-like role of fire and smoke in the germination of certain native seeds.

The swirling, rhythmic eddies depicted in other works simulate those occurring in all of Nature. Their direct sensory appeal involves us in a type of physical/mystical reality. The Bless and Blessed pieces are assembled from countless Banksia leaves hand-stitched onto padded canvas, as is Blessing, but its silvery colour is due to being made with the underside of the leaves exposed. The irregularly shaped ‘canopy' works utilise the bark of Hoop Pines, their variation in colour indicating the age of the tree from which they were ‘farmed'. The more golden Germination is of younger stock while Brother Araucaria's tree was over two hundred years old - its pale, ancient bark mottled and flecked with the lichens and scars of centuries. Lae's exquisitely rendered art suggests a history of growth, mellowing and submergence. A fusion of subject and object, their undulating patterns, tactile surfaces and delicate hues are meant to activate the dormant sacred seed within ourselves so that we may grow towards an evermore fully integrated, affirmative life.


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