The Chelsea Flower Show 2022
I can't say I was upset to say goodbye to 2021! What had been another difficult year ended in a thump on 16 December with the arrival of typhoon Rai with gusts of 240km/h that left more than 400 people dead and Cebu, the second largest city of the Philippines, without electricity for a month. My workshop is still without electricity to date and we are not expecting it back until beginning of February.
My workshop after the typhoon
We brushed ourselves down, fixed up the workshop and spent the weeks over Christmas assisting a little island community of 421 houses off the coast of Mactan called Gilutongan and continued on. If our problems were dire then theirs were nothing short of terminal!
The typhoon and the more immediate problems of finding drinking water, cash and fuel spared us the worries of the pandemic. No surprise, then, come mid January when Omicron burst onto the scene. Luckily the symptoms are mild in comparison to their cousin strains and the locals, in an unspoken accord, referred to it as Flu, took 48 hours off to get over the worst, and continued with their daily lives turbo-spreading the troublesome virus as they went. I was one of the unlucky few who unwittingly managed to register my covid bout officially! Meant to be flying to the UK for a couple of weeks of installations, I submitted myself for my pre flight PCR test and had the dubious honour of being one of the few official covid sufferers in my area at a time when everyone was coughing their way around the neighbourhood!
I had to make some adjustments to my Chelsea Flower show presentation as a result. Last year's September show reduced my preparation time to half what it usually is. The shipping crisis had further reduced this by a month in delayed transit times and the lack of electricity in the workshop married to my 9 day isolation meant that what was promising to be a sprint to Chelsea 2022 had become significantly less.
The Tree Climbing Lions of Lake Manyara taken last year
One of the many sayings my grandmother used to wheel out from her arsenal is "Necessity is the mother of invention" and what looked to be an absolute disaster in the making has turned into a really exciting line up for 2022! My awe-inspiring Breeching Whale "In Search of Harmony", which I have been working on since 2020, is being shelved for another year. I am going to revisit my Tree Climbing Lions of Lake Manyara, giving the trio their very own male who is stretched up against the tree indolently wondering whether it is worth his while to climb up. What is so wonderful about the Tree Climbing Lions of Lake Manyara is that they are 10 years old and looking better than they did when I made them.
A young Male is going to be added to spice up the lives of the Lionesses
I am pretty excited about another monumental sculpture to be presented at this May's exhibition. He is called "The Importance of Remaining Bullish" and depicts a Charging Bull balancing astride an inverted pile of pebbles, indifferent to the precariousness of the foundation upon which he stands. The message is as old as the wind itself and just as appropriate today as it was back in biblical times.
The Importance of Remaining Bullish
There are other pieces that have transformed my intial despondency at having to set aside "Harmony" into creative excitement; If I had a pound for every time someone has asked me for a Red Kite I would be considerably wealthier than I currently am! The problem with a Red Kite is that you need to depict the bird in mid flight with her iconic tail running on a different axis from that of her wings and this invariably brings the artist to the crux of the problem - how to suspend a Red Kite in flight without the supporting structure competing with or detracting from the sculpture. I really think I have cracked this one and am making a series of 4 Red Kites circling the skies, suspended some 5 metres above my stand to celebrate!
My Red Kites are supported with a solid ribbon of stainless steel
There are a host of other animals which I have been toying with over the last couple of years that are poised to get their five minutes of fame and fortune this May. One of my favourites is "The Guardian of the Birdbath" - the birdbath is made from reconstituted limestone.
My dragonfly is making another appearance this year - this time he has settled on a Bulrush made from marine grade stainless steel.
Although you dont want to tell them at the time, Grandmothers are almost always right! Necessity has not just turned out to be the mother of invention, but has also led to an unexpectedly creative and enjoyable half year at the workshop!
Roll on May