There is a part of each of us held in these sculptures and their stories,
for they speak of our search for what it means to be human.
Almost hidden amongst Noel's better known artworks is a series of sculptures which stand apart in their inspiration and narrative, but which he is now bringing to the foreground of his artistic search for clarity.
These are the storylines pieces that inspire the multi-layered thought-journeys, sculptures which are born of a different place, and hold within them a deep complexity, weaving together ancient indigenous cultural knowledge with a creative search for what it means to be human in our modern age, and given expression through these unique artworks.
Grounded in the unfolding journey of self discovery, they have the potential to help us understand ourselves better and, in this way, provide a clearer pathway into the future, for they are born of something intrinsically human.
The Wayfinders - songlines along a silent knowing
In the silence of the open ocean, the navigator sits alone, watching, listening, sensing the ancestral routes that cross the great Pacific. A lone bird crosses astern, and in a gesture of the fellow traveler, the navigator bows his head and alters the rudder ever so slightly, not because he knows, but because he feels its hidden direction.
Drawn from the depths of his very being, in a reverence with the moving waters beneath the hull, the lifting swell and the whisper upon the winds of change he is able to find home out of a seeming nothingness, a song-line of the oceans held within the notes of the restless sea, between the earth and the stars in the multiple dimensions of life. All with the foundation of a complex knowledge passed down through the generations.
Alongside his twin hulled vessel a whale surfaces, a blow, a fin and a raised tail before it dips back into the ocean. He has known for a long time that they were following the same invisible line through the oceans as in the darkness of the night he had heard their gentle songs, an ocean melody heard not in the ears of man, but in the soul of mankind.
And upon finally setting foot upon the soft sands of his island, he proceeds in silence and alone to the highest point of the land, and turning to the ocean, bows in humble gratitude for the truth in the sacred conversation that has brought him home.
"In the quiet of the Cederberg mountains, where I go to find some space and a sense of solitude with the earth, I seek out the paintings left by the San peoples who lived here amongst the eland and the eagles, and my spirit soars upon the beauty and complexity of their artworks. Natural pigments hold stories, and amongst them I find the Therianthropes, half man, half eland that take my world into a place of deep connection and reverence, spirit journeys of healing across the great divide.
Back in the studio I seek this profound way of being, and out of the clay the power of a Therianthrope emerges, seeking to hold this truth and at the same time taking me on a journey far beyond the studio walls. This work them becomes a talisman, a reminding, an offering, holding, and it becomes a part of me. And out of its presence comes a thought-journey that spans the divide, and I am thankful for it." Noel 2019 from An introduction to the Therianthrope
How is it that we can so quickly forget, and how is it possible to remove ourselves so completely from who we are and where we have come from?.
Our ancestors honoured this magnificent mammal of Africa, they knew its power, its significance and importance, they read its temperament and knew that it had much to offer them.
To them, a world without the rhino would have been unimaginable, but to most people who are now on earth, a world without the rhino would be no different. Till they got to that point when the earth was bare and their souls empty, and then the rhino will not be there to remind them what it is to walk upon the earth with a sense of deep belonging.
This sculpture and its story became an important aspect of the Creativity with Purpose projects.
"To live upon the ancient soils of Africa is to awaken to the primal language of being, when firesides were opportunities to allow the inner and outer worlds, the present and the past to fuse into the birth of the future, and to express these through stories, images and dance.
It was at a fireside under a rising African full moon that the image of Sacred Ocean came to me. That night was one of those rare moments when inspiration and creativity merged in a flash of focused energy, with the form of a sculpture slowly borne from the smoke and the sparks of the fire, and finally becoming real when I later grappled with large charcoal drawings in the silence of the studio.
It was only when the sun returned the next morning that the image was complete, and with it, the thoughts and deep connection to the message and motivation which I knew had to be brought into the world.
It was the beginning of a journey that would take over four years, but I knew that morning that I would call it Sacred Ocean." Noel 2008
The Time Traveller
In Africa, the San people say that a story is the wind, and that it comes from afar, and as I sit at the entrance of the old Bushman’s cave high up in the mountains of the Cederberg, a gentle silence washes over me, the calling of a dove mingling with the warm breath of the wind, giving a sense of the timelessness of this ancient place.
And when I am surrounded by the bustle of the everyday back in the city, I need just to listen, and that same wind washes over me, taking me back to that cave in the mountains. And from here, if I set off along a game-trail that joins the distant horizons, and listen for the whisper on the breeze that rustles the grasses, I shall hear the gentle clicking language of the San, and am pleased, for then I know that I am not alone, and focus on treading lightly, for that is how we walk upon the earth....
And when the sun has set and the sparks from the fire lead my thoughts along the Milky Way's path into the infinity of now, it is my breath that brings me back as an owl from across the valley calls the moon into being.
Such is the joy and the richness of life if we know to just listen, for there is a story upon the wind, and it might take us afar.
Although the Whale - Boat has a similar structure to 'Form and Function' (see below), it engages the viewer in a completely different dialogue, for when an artist brings together two completely separate components and presents them as one, we then know that we are being offered an invitation to contemplate a hidden aspect presented by the sculpture. Noel has offered no explanation or narrative to accompany this piece, but a boat built from the bones of hunted whales which will not float definitely offers us a clear direction of contemplation.
Form and Function
Working with the science and morphology of cetaceans, and having a close connections to boats, especially wooden ones, it was inevitable that some form of interpretation and assimilation would occur. This sculpture explores and notes the convergent symmetry of a common dolphin and the J Classs yacht 'Endeavour', showing the hydrodynamic principals at play. I suppose scientists would call this bio-mimicary