GOING TO SEED: DOCUMENTARY ABOUT WENDY EARLE
Wendy Earle’s affection for the variety of life is a mixture of careful observation and an imagination eager to transform what she sees.
Although she became a sculptor well before moving to the west of Wales, the influence of the secluded valley in which she has lived for thirty five years has become ever more prominent. Through daily labour with fork and spade she has helped to shape the woodlands, pastures, wetlands, pond and walkways that have gradually become home to a wealth of wildlife. To her eyes the unconcern of other creatures with how their good fortune came about is humorously assuring.
Sculpting a valley has given form to wayward nature and it is the fusion of imagination, physical effort and nature’s own contours that enables the magic of a place to come alive in the sculpture produced in her studio. In return, the pieces which emerge are displayed outside and throughout the landscape she has in part made. Works of art placed in trees, streams and corners of fields are bye and bye colonized by birds and insects and acquire a camouflage of moss and lichens. In this exchange nature gives rise to art and then repays the compliment by providing clothing of its own.
However much nature seems to hold the upper hand, it is the servant not the master in Wendy’s work as an artist. What is seen in the ‘natural’ surroundings where she lives and works is glimpsed, as Blake said, “not with but through the eye.” What sparkles in her sculpture is a humorous sense of how odd it is to be a being of any sort, whether animal, vegetable or mineral. Human being is especially odd because our preoccupations colour everything we see and touch, and make us wonder what it must be like to be a bird or a fish. At the same time as we observe other forms of life we imagine to ourselves what their lives might be like. Wendy’s work hints that butterflies and bees may be doing something similar; viewing us from their own angles, and perhaps in less anxious and more joyful ways.
The simultaneous intimacy with the rest of nature and our unbridgeable detachment from it, brings out wonder in Wendy’s work. This has been strengthened by a visit to the Lascaux caves where pre-historical paintings of animals portray the density of human hopes and fears. In doing so, art stands out as a means of supplication as well as of expression. Wendy has also been much impressed by an exhibition of icons from St Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai desert. These brought home how the super-natural comes to life in art in almost palpable form.
For all her love of nature Wendy’s imagination as a sculptor is therefore fed by essentially human concerns with our place in the world both now and hereafter. For this reason she needs draughts of the achievements of other artists and makes regular visits to museums and exhibitions. She has been a life-long pilgrim to the large collections of sculpture held in the British Museum. These treasures from all the continents of the world are as much her companions and inspiration as is the wildlife that surrounds and sometimes invades her studio.
Husband and Author