Sacred Ocean: Time spent with the whale bones

Noel_ashton_sacred_ocean_inspirat_6 From Noel Ashton’s studio in Cape Town


Creating a sculpture of the size and complexity of Sacred Ocean involves a long and complicated journey. Initially the process is entirely creative, a beginning that involves the coming together of emotion, creativity and visualisation, as the form and meaning of the piece are originated entirely in the mind.


Then the process of drawing brings out the actual form onto paper – a lengthy process of exploration as the sculpture is brought into the light of day, where the internal images are laid down and the structure of the three dimensions worked out. It is one thing to imagine a sculpture like this, it is another to try to transfer the concept and structure into reality, and most of this occurs during this stage of drawing. Only after this process is completed can the physical journey of creating the three dimensional work begin, and to do this I needed first to visit the bones of the southern right whale that washed up near Cape Point a few years ago.

On the windswept coast the bones protrude from the sand, the end of a journey of a lifetime in the water, and it is here that I went to connect with the whales. Not only was this an opportunity to look closely at the bones, their structure, shape, colour and texture, but it also gave me a unique opportunity to be with whales. This might seem unusual, but as an artist it is incredibly important to engage all realities, and these times spent with the bones gave me a chance to reflect on their hidden lives below the surface. These are quiet times, and a very different experience from watching migrating whales or mothers with calves, and involves a more spiritual journey of connecting with the soul of the whale. At times unexpected insights and thoughts appear, and I often wonder if it is these connections that the elephants seek when they spend time with the bones of their ancestors. Although I did make some notes whilst with the bones, most of what I gained from this experience I carry within me, and use these emotions and connections to keep my focus and integrity as the process of creating the actual sculpture progresses…

More next week as I discuss sculpting the two humpback whales and why I chose this majestic species…

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