Thursday, 20 June 2013

Gaudi and Carbon Sequestration

In 2006 on the way back from a  trip to the US visiting family, I stopped off in Barcelona for a once in a lifetime visit. We had 3 days and a camera. I knew it was unlikely that I would ever be coming back this way again and so even though I was unwell at the time, it was  all senses switched on to gobble up as much as I could to fuel me for years of memories.
I had read obsessively about Antoni Gaudi and his extraordinary creations before we headed there but I don't think I was really prepared for the reality of his vision and ambition.

I know a lot more about ambition now...
While I was there I was greedy for as many images of his project Parc Guell as I could capture. It is impossible to describe the size of this huge mosaiced serpentine seat which surrounds the high plateau of the Park. It was January and  quite warm and I was distressed to see so many people sitting on this seat that I had only a couple of hours to photograph. How dare they escape from a dismal winter across the Mediterranean on the one day I had to visit Barcelona and Parc Guell and loll about in the sun on the very thing I wanted to photograph!

So I just had to be content with the 100 or so photos I took... yes really! I just wanted to own the thing.

Of course despite my best efforts you cannot grasp the size of this endeavour on a few small images. This seat overlooks the city of Barcelona and all its smog which I reckon is because everyone in Barcelona smokes. Talk about global warming! First breath of the day for millions of them is a cancer stick and you can watch the smoke rising over the morning to obliterate the view. Sad! How much could we do to abate global warming by just banning cigarettes. There is no part of the process which is good for the planet or anyone on it.
Well back to ambition and thoughts of saving the world from carbon. I felt guilty at having travelled so many kilometres purely for pleasure and I wanted to do as many things as I could to atone for my sins.
I was building a new garden so that seemed a good place to start and with the help of the local supermarket skip we buried hundreds of cardboard boxes under a thick mulch of gravel to try to control kikuyu grass until new plants could compete. It looked spectacular for a long while and the plants have grown well.
But that didn't seem enough and I had ideas about building a Gaudi style bench on a more modest scale. Friends nearby had built a brand new home and no matter how green you try to be there is just wrapping on everything which has to be carted away. I decided I was going to start with junk that would have ended in landfill to begin my dream.
I took all of their junk and filled up as many of the packing boxes as possible as tight as drums. These were the building blocks.
Next we stacked the boxes side by side and held them down with chicken wire and placed another upright wall of wire mesh behind it.
Then bit by bit we smothered it in concrete. On the curving parts and upright back I had no idea how to make it stick but I had plenty of hay so mixed that into the concrete and it worked wonders. You can also see the lovely gravel courtyard we made underneath with all those hidden boxes.
Well the main structure of the seat has been complete for several years now and the garden has grown wild around it so the next part of the job has to start.
The mosaic. EEh gads! It is so big!
I have made a mosaic before which now adorns a tabletop. I made it at a Deborah Halpern workshop at the National Gallery of Victoria. She did advise me that I had maybe bitten off a bit too much for the period of the workshop which was of course red rag to a bull! Here it is.
So now with many broken failed pieces of ceramic work and test tiles and maybe donations from other ceramic artists I can cobble together a fitting tribute to Gaudi.
If you stand on the seat this is the great view. And the insides of the seat have been providing food for wood bugs (slaters) for years which in turn have fed the local birds. That's what Carbon Sequestration is really about.

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