Twelve ceramic potters made individual works for NEST, an exhibition at Henry George Gallery on May 2018. On six porcelain pots, through circular drawings, I explored a world set on earth as a nest where nestlings live. I made these pots intuitively and would like to return to the thoughts that inspired them and understand its meaning.
The shape of choice
A sleepy creature wakes up while a little tit is suspended midair in a triangular choice, with one foot was on a kappertjie, the other on a agt-dae-genees and a red trumpet waiting underneath.
The Love Letter
Johannes Vermeer made a painting called -The Love Letter, 1666. I had it in mind when I made this drawing of young girl receiving a Whats App from her lover, not written in words but as a picture emoji of a single green apple. She understands its content in its context as she considers the offer of one more apple.
Strangely, I had sketched her lover as a yellow canary competing with a swallow for her attention.
In the space between the pelican and the bittern an iteration of birds are arguing about who started the noise. In circles they argue to resolve an unsolvable equation.
We found a black oystercatcher in a tangle of lines on our beach. My daughter approached it gently and held the spiky bird while my husband and I cut it loose from its panic and pain. Limping back towards the pull of the sea, it was no longer a stranger to us as it continued its search for its oyster and pearl.
The Pelican and the Bittern,
In the Bible birds are often used figuratively but I have never paid much attention until now. In intentionally searched for such symbolism and stumbled upon four birds in a prophesy by the prophet Isaiah. It shocked me.
The prophesy was about a day when the fury of the Lord God would be turned upon all nations because they had turned away from him, choosing to trust their own efforts instead of the Lord who is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works. In that day the earth will be desolate. Streams will be turned to pitch, dust to brimstone, the land shall be burnt and become impenetrable. From one generation to the next it shall lie waste and just like water can’t pass through pitch no one would be able to pass through it, but the pelican and the bittern shall possess it and the owl and the raven shall live in it. A line of confusion shall be stretched and stones of emptiness shall be upon it. (Isaiah 34: 8-15)
These words slay souls naked like desolate landscapes.
It was obvious, the Pelican stood as a picture metaphor. Its most famous habit was to scoop its catch into its large beak and then spit it out on dry land where all kinds of creatures assembled to devour it. It reminded me of what the Spirit said to the church of Laodicea – I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot, therefore I will spit you out of my mouth for you do not know that you are wretched, poor, naked and miserable’ ~Rev 3:15-18. Knowing that early Christians identified with the fish symbol, I included the fish in my sketch in the same context with the pelican and the hungry nestling (or creature). I understood that it was about the nestling’s choice:
When I saw that large terrestrial bird called the bittern for the first time, its body looked like that of a striped marlin. I learned that this bird is well known for its stance taken when under threat – it stands completely still and lifts up its eyes towards heaven – as if it was waiting on God.
These two birds therefore stand for two realities experienced in the dry lands of souls.
The Mourning Owl and the Weeping Dragon,
In Isaiah’s prophesy (which is explored above) the pelican and the bittern stood for two different realities experienced in the dry landscape of souls. According to the prophesy the owl and the dusky raven were the inhabitants of that desolate landscape.
I sketched these two and was shocked by the owl’s appearance for she looked like a young girl. I had to find out more about her.
I found her again in Micah’s prophesy (Mic 1). She was mourning in the company of a weeping dragon. She was from Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel. She was in covenant with her Lord but she had turned away from his holiness and righteousness and had hired herself out as a kind of prostitute. The Lord said, I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons and a mourning as the owls for her wound has become incurable. 1) Between 735 BC to 700 BC, the king of Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and Israel was sent as captives to Babylon. 2)
I sketched her in mourning, exiled to the nations.
I sketched her companion – the weeping dragon under the weight of all his hoarded wealth, longing for all his comforts.
Isaiah then heared the word of God –
‘The Lord, The Holy One of Israel, the creator of Israel, your King says – I make a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters. Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing that shall spring forth. I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. The animals of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, as a drink to my people, my chosen whom I have formed for myself and they shall praise me’. 3)
I then sketched the gospel of Jesus Christ breaking forth like a strong horse into the world to give the water of salvation by the Holy Spirit to all who believe in him.
1. Micah 1:8-9 (KJV)
3. Isaiah 43:19-21 (KJV)
All these pots explore aspects of choice – its shape, its vanity, our limitations-, our emotions-, our motives when choosing and then lastly comes the realisation that God is righteous, holy and merciful. He forms us for himself because he has chosen us, because he loves us.