Sacred Ocean: Centrepiece for the sculpture, the humpback whales

From Noel Ashton’s studio in Cape Town

Noel_sculpting_the_humpbacks_2

It is late in the evening and the studio is in complete darkness but for
the single spotlight above the sculpting table. For the past few hours I have been working on the central piece for the Sacred Ocean sculpture, the two humpback whales that hang suspended from the bones, capturing a special moment as the mother and calf touch momentarily as they glide by. Times like these in the studio are very focused, my concentration aided by the fact that there are no distractions, no sounds, nothing intrusive, not even any reference notes. Those notes are in my head, gleaned from countless hours studying, watching and drawing humpbacks, so now my hands trace invisible lines as they search for the form in the clay.

At times my mind drifts off and I am in the water with the
humpbacks, warm turquoise waters and sunlight streams descending from
the surface. Everything is in slow motion, giving me time to study the
two whales as they swim by, extraordinary moments, special encounters.
For me these are the most perfectly proportioned and elegant of whales,
with their slender bodies and long flippers that flow through the water
like the flight of a bird. They turn and glide by with a gracefulness
that is almost impossible to describe. It is this grace that I seek in
this sculpture, and so I will sculpt the two as I see them now, a
moment locked in time, the tips of their flippers just touching, a true
challenge for me as a sculptor but one which I must get right.

To think that thousands of humpback whales were once ruthlessly
hunted, this ocean mammal in complete balance with its underwater
environment, taken away by the brutal explosion of a harpoon gun. And
now they are in the harpooner’s sights again.

The humpback is one of the most sought after species by whale
watchers around the world, as it is the singing whale, creating ocean
melodies that last up to half an hour, repeated again and again,
echoing through the depths, adding to the ocean pulse. May these
magnificent whales be forever free, may their songs resonate through
eternity, for if the song of the humpback whale is lost, a part of us
will die as well…

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