Tuesday, May 19, 2020

'Last to Sea' # 6 : Tiny Fishes

 Work continues on this year's contribution to the Elora Sculpture Project : 'Last to Sea'

Overall installation rough
 From the original description of 'Last to Sea'
a) ’Tiny Fishes’ - represented by a school grouping, cut from stainless steel sheet and without much detailing. Intended as a reflection of the collapse of the Fishery, how larger species have be hunted beyond viability, so only smaller and smaller fish remain (and are in turn harvested out).

A direct reference to Stan Rogers : 'Tiny Fish for Japan'

My first trip out to Northern Newfoundland was in 1995. Two years after the closing of the Cod Fishery, people were still in a state of shock. Over the years I have returned a number of times to L'Anse aux Meadows. And watch those once fishing cod turn to crab, then turn to shrimp, then to previously undesirable species. (This including 're-branding' types with new, more pleasant names.)
Morning coffee conversations with two marine biologists, billeted at the same B & B in 1996, suggested the following : The total mass of fish in the local oceans was not changing that much. But the larger, top end types were being eliminated, with smaller and smaller fish coming to dominate the total.

Stan Rogers wrote 'Tiny Fish', released as part of the 'From Fresh Waters' album, released in 1984 (after his death). The theme of this collection was actually the Great Lakes, and though the fishermen described are based off Lake Erie (Port Dover the location of the Norfolk Hotel), the situation described might as well be Northern Newfoundland :
So the days run together. Each one is the same
And it's good that the smelt have no lovelier name
It's all just a job now, we'll work while we can
To catch tiny fish for Japan
    via Genius Lyrics
Many of my own early trips out to the St Anthony area were over late May and early June. This is when the Capelin run on to the beaches there to spawn. Every year, the local people gather up these 'tiny fish', who are largest run to only 8 - 10 inches. These days the catch, scooped up by hand, is mainly eaten fresh or frozen. It was not so long back that the fish were dried or smoked. More than one person I came to know around L'Anse aux Meadows remarked '... but there ain't as many as there used to be.'

Capelin coming on to the beach - Northern Newfoundland

The 'Tiny Fishes' element within Last to Sea, was always intended to be simple, just a set of cut out shapes, with no detailing.
I quite intentionally based the profile on capelin, but had simplified the shape to make cutting easier. I deliberately chose to use some scrap stainless steel I had on hand. Several of the resulting fish shapes out of a mirrored finish material. The choice of these bright metals would contrast with the dark fire scale (and eventually rusting) surfaces of all the other pieces.

Individual Tiny Fishes cut out
Once cut out, each of the shapes was given some curvature, suggestive of living fish.
The shapes were hung off several thin wire bars, creating a multi-axis mobile. This would provide movement to what was otherwise a fairly static overall installation. Another feature would be the ability to catch and reflect sunlight, especially off the two mirror finished shapes. Both these aspects (motion and reflection) had been major design elements in earlier works created for the Elora Sculpture Project.

Showing the relationship to the other elements
more of a close up of the Tiny Fishes
These still images of the finished collection of Tiny Fishes, as added into the overall installation, certainly do not represent this element very well.
As I do the final work up of the piece, I have it sitting in the side garden space at the front of the workshop. At four feet diameter, the whole thing barely fits into that space with enough room to let me work around it. The result is an extremely chaotic background to these images.
And of course, the whole set moves. With the small size of the individual shapes (ranging about 5 to 8 inches long), it is the motion that catches the eye.

Next up : 'Shark'

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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