I made 7 pots for the NEST exhibition at the Henry George Gallery, contributed to by 12 ceramic potters and artists. On the surfaces of my pots, I examined the world as our nest where creatures hatch by suspending time in circular drawings. But once more I want to revisit these sketched moments, see it from above and understand what is really going on.
The shape of choice
A sleepy creature wakes up. A little tit bird faces the world upside down, suspended midair in a triangular choice – one foot on a kappertjie, the other on a agt-dae-genees and a red trumpet waiting underneath.
The Love Letter
I made this pot after Johannes Vermeer’s painting by the same name. In a virtual space, a woman receives a proposal on Whats App from her besotted lover, not written in words but sent as a single symbol – an apple. She understands its content in its context and considers the offer of one more apple.
The unsolvable equation
Here a conversation breaks loose between an iteration of birds where no answer is possible. In the distance between the pelican and the bittern – the sea gull, the egret and the little tit argue not the truth of the matter but who started the matter?
I then made this pot by joining 2 clays together and formed it partly on my potters wheel and partly built it by hand, because I wanted to express two unlikely things joined together. I have this memory in my head – Our family went for a long walk on our favorite beach when we saw a strange thing. In the distance was a tumble of black and blue. As we came closer it turned out to be a black oystercatcher caught in a nest of fishing-line. My daughter gently approached and held the spiky bird, while my husband and I cut it free, an arduous task which took a very long time. Long enough for us to feel the bird’s panic and pain. At last set free from its prison, we watched our familiar stranger limp back towards the shallow waves to continue its search of its elusive oyster and pearl.
The Shape of the Nest
If it was possible to give the world a geometrical shape, I think it would be a circle around a center – like a nest woven around a little room where chicklings hatch in a garden.
To test such a shape, I threw a square cylinder on a turning wheel and sketched all kinds of houses from all over the world in a circle around its center.
Looking at the world in this way, the Promised Land becomes the diameter of the world’s circle, forming the shape of the mathematical symbol – theta: θ – the measure for angular momentum where not a wing is to be lifted or a peep is to be made to make the circle spin.
The Pelican and the Bittern,
In search of the nest’s hatchlings I turned to the word of God and found the Lord’s indignation over the nest. The pelican and bittern possessed the dry lands of the nest. It was inhabited by the owl and the dusky raven, flying to and fro but not finding rest. I dug deeper.
The LORD had formed Israel for himself, chosen to be his people because he loved her. Instead she preferred the world. She was then banished from the promised land and sent into exile, like an adulterous wife divorced by her own making. The kingdom of Israel ceased to exist and she and her children never returned, but was dispersed even further from Babylonia to the Nations of the world, where she was assimilated as Gentile. Still faithful to the promises made in the covenant to Abraham the LORD said to her, ‘Turn, O backsliding children, for I am married to you and will take you one from a city, and two from a family, and will bring you to Zion.’ (Jeremiah 3:14)
It is in this context of God’s unceasing affection and care to preserve his own people to Zion (his church) that this vision of the Lord’s indignation against the enemies of the church must be understood. It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance and the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion. The streams shall turn to pitch, the dust to brimstone, the land to burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day, smoke shall go up forever and ever, from one generation to the next, it shall lie waste and non shall pass through it forever and ever. But the pelican and the bittern shall possess it and the owl and the raven shall live in it: and a line of confusion and empty stones shall be stretched out upon it. (Is 34: 1-11)
In my desperation to understand the pelican-bittern metaphor, I sketched these birds in a circle with earthling creatures between them to see what was reasonable to happen. Known to regurgitate fish on dry land, that was how I sketched the pelican. Its behavior reminded me of the words spoken by Christ, who is God made flesh, to the church of Laodicea, ‘because your works are lukewarm and neither cold or hot, I will spit you out of my mouth, because you say you are rich and in need of nothing, but you do not know that you are miserable, poor, blind and naked.’ (Rev 3:16)
I then sketched the in-need-of-nothing-fish gasping for water in the dry kingdom of air, falling prey or withering of thirst (Is 50:2).
I then sketched the secretive bittern who inhabits inaccessible reed-beds next to rivers and streams. Camouflaged by its stripes, it appears hidden from the dry lands of the world. Under threat it points its bill towards heaven and stands transformed and saint-like in another kingdom of living water.
These two birds seem instrumental in the way God arranges the dry lands of souls. First, he separates self reliance and then cuts off unbelief from access to living water. (Jn 7:36-37) These It is more than a metaphor to me, it is an allegory because I can only understand it makes perfect sense in pictures.
The Mourning Owl and the Weeping Dragon,
The owl and the raven are the inhabitants of the dry desert lands described in Isaiah’s vision. 1] The familial daughter like appearance of the owl in a simple sketch shocked me and I knew that I had to find her and understand her for what she was.
She appeared again in a vision by the prophet Micah – she was mourning in the company of a weeping dragon. The vision: – The word of the Lord came to Micah which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Behold the Lord comes forth out of his place, and will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall melt, and the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire, as waters that are poured down a steep place. For the transgression of Jacob is all this and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob ? Is it not Samaria ? And what are the high places of Judah ? Are they not Jerusalem? Therefore I will make Samariah as a heap of the field and as plantings of the vineyard, and I will pour down stones into the valley to discover the foundations there. And all the engraved images shall be beaten to pieces and all the hires shall be burned with fire, and all the idols there will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of a prostitute and shall again return to the hire of a prostitute. Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked. I will make a wailing like the dragons and mourning as the owls. For her wound is incurable. For it is come to Judah, he is come to the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem. 2]
Then because of their sin God stirred up the Middle-East like an eagle stirs up her nest. During 735 BC to 700 BC Assyria conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, took these 10 northern tribes into captivity, from where they dispersed into the Nations. Also Judah was occupied and the holy city, Jerusalem besieged. 3] The wound festered incurably.
It is in that context that I sketched the owl in exile, mourning over all she had lost.
God remembered the creatures.
I will do a new thing, I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people I have formed for myself, and they shall show forth my praise. 4]
These men may honour with their lips while their hearts are far from God, but still their souls are formed here on earth to hopefully join that company of saints which praise God in heaven. I then sketched that hypocrite, the natural man who I call Red, inside a porcelain cylinder where he suffers his own beastly nature in the valley of affliction, where the heat of the kiln is most severe. If he is told that he had been redeemed from his fallen nature and is offered living water in that valley, would he not drink and be changed by that mercy.
‘My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life,’ said Jesus, the fountain of living water. But, ‘unless a man is born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6] For it is only the Spirit of God that can teach us that new song of praise that will be sung before the throne in heaven. 7]
I then thought about Zechariah’s vision of horses in the valley underneath the myrtle trees sent to walk through the earth and behold that all the earth sits still and is at rest. 8] I wondered whether they were the ones who worked praise for God on earth?
1. Isaiah 34
2. Micah 1 (KJV)
4. Isaiah 43:19-21 (KJV)
5. Rom 8: 20-21
6. John 3:5
7. Rev 14:2-3
8. Zechariah 1:11 (KJV)