Noel Ashton’s life has taken him along many divergent pathways, but time has shown that the central thread that has come to define his life is that as an artist responding to the world in which he lives. This is expressed through sculptures and paintings which are his primary creative outlet, but these have also formed the foundation for other avenues of expression including writing, innovating conservation projects, consulting and engaging with the public through talks, radio and television.
A need to effect change within the environmental and sociological sectors has forged a very personal journey, and the search for his inner voice have brought with it the frustrations of the seeker, grappling with not only his creative response to the world, but also wishing to better understand the human paradigm, and how this can influence and enrich the life of the individual.
“Meeting artist-sculptor Noel Ashton in his studio is a humbling experience. This is a place where sculptures breathe and paintings move. This is a place where art has been taken so seriously that it becomes something complex, something anatomically precise, something real.” (Janis Theron)
News from the studio and latest projects
Equus - focusing on the Horse
2014 has seen a shift in focus and a move of the studio to the beautiful rural town of Greyton. It is here that Noel is able to give full attention to the complex but fascinating world of the horse, which is resulting in a new range of sculptures and paintings. But all is not as it might seem, for below the surface Noel is reconciling his internal art/science dialogue by giving close study to the horse’s muscle and skeletal structure.
As Noel puts it - “By not understanding these aspects, my sculptures will lack those defining characteristics which invite us to respond to this extraordinary animal in such profound ways. In order to sculpt and capture the complexity of this majestic animal, I need to know it intimately, for then I might be able to speak of its majesty and grace.” Find out more - Equus
Mapungubwe Revisited - working for the rhino with WWF-SA
800 years ago, a little gold rhino was placed in the royal grave at the Late Iron Age Archaeological site of Mapungubwe; 800 years later it inspired Noel to create ‘Mapungubwe Revisited’. This sculpture not only embodies the magnificent rhino, but also offers reflection on our inter-connected place within the wider living world.
Created in partnership with WWF-SA, the initiative was launched in 2012 at the Mapungubwe Museum, Pretoria. The next event is being held at CIRCA Gallery on 23rd October 2014.
Find out more - Mapungubwe Revisited Initiative
Gallery of artworks
Noel’s primary response to the world around him finds expression through his paintings and sculpture. Subject matter vary and are diverse, ranging from the extraordinary life below the surface of the sea, to bold landscapes and engaging encounters with birds and animals. This diversity of subjects has demanded a range of responses translating into Noel utilizing most art mediums, including oil, acrylic, watercolour, airbrush and graphite. His sculptures are cast in bronze, or in the case of Mapungubwe Revisited, gold-leaf on bronze.
View the artworks - Artist
The Whales of Walker Bay
Noel’s uniquely personal insights and experiences watching the southern right whales that visit Walker Bay each year are captured in this classic book which has become a local best seller in Hermanus, with only limited copies remaining from its first edition. Filled with anecdotal stories along with interesting facts about whales and whale-watching, the book is illustrated with Noel’s paintings and scientific illustrations, so creating a unique window into the fascinating world of these great ocean travellers.
Watching whales and dolphins in southern Africa (Published by Random House Struik)
Noel has spent many years illustrating the world’s cetaceans, which has involved spending time out at sea or along the coast photographing whales and dolphins, creating scientific illustrations and getting to know their behaviours and identification, all of which have been brought together in this new book, published by Random House Struik. Southern Africa has some of the best whale and dolphin watching opportunities in the world - this book is an essential guide to enriching your whale or dolphin watching experience. With a foreword by zoologist Mark Carwardine. Find out more - Writer
Specialist tours to see the whales
There is little doubt that Hermanus offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world, and this year Noel is taking a few select groups to spend time with these giants of the deep. Sitting at the edge of the sea in the company of whales is an extraordinary and unique wildlife experience that is never forgotten, and as a guide and author/artist Noel feels it is a privilege to share these moments with visitors from around the world.
Every year for the past thirty winters Noel has returned to this very same bay where he himself saw his first whale, and these many encounters, experiences and insights are shared during these whale watching excursions. Find out more - Speaker
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sacred Ocean - an ongoing inspiration
For many years Noel has returned to the edge of the sea to spend time with those magnificent mammals of the oceans, the whales, but these special times were tainted with the knowledge that they continue to suffer at the brutal hand of man. His Sacred Ocean sculpture now stands silently in the foyer of the Two Oceans Aquarium, inviting the world to join him and say no to the cruelty of whaling through the Great Whaling Debate.
“It is for ourselves, even more than for the whales, that we need to say No! No! No! to the killing of whales.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at the launch of the Sacred Ocean Campaign
Journeys in search of the whale - a unique AV experience
Through his experiences, Noel has found that mankind’s complex relationship with the whale, ranging from a fascination which draws people to the edge of the sea, and the impassioned response to save stranded whales, in contrast to the brutality of explosive-harpoon whaling, has given him a powerful metaphor with which to explore our relationship with the world around us, and along the way to look closer at ourselves and our social and environmental paradigms. Find out more - Journeys in Search of the Whale