Naming Calls – Chapter 2
I wake at three thirty. It’s inky black outside. A warm night for November. Fevered, I scribble down the gift of my unconscious mind, commit it to paper before it fades. I cover sheet after sheet with charcoal and pencil sketches.
Then, as day breaks, I move into the third dimension, building maquettes in modelling clay. To get the subtractive effect of carving, I fashion mini tree trunks that approximate the unworked timber, then cut into them with a scalpel, scoop them with a wire loop, press indentations with a ball stylus.
Skipper has to wait for his breakfast and morning walk. He is unimpressed.
I think I already mentioned that most manna gum trunks are straight. Not this one. You can see how the tree twisted itself out of the earth, screwing upwards into the sky. I’ll keep that rotational character in the piece.
I want to retain as much of the sapwood as possible: the burrowing of beetles under the bark, the lyctid borer holes. This will give the shroud of hair its texture.
Hair? A human form, then.
That’s right, Freya. Sorry, didn’t I mention that?
No, you got carried away, Dad. A standing figure, presumably?
Not as static as that. Leaning, pushing forward. Almost flying.
Sounds like a galleon’s figurehead.
No, Freya. At least, not the like of any that has yet been seen. Not one of those stiff things with jutting bosom and bland, rosy-cheeked face. More dynamic, asymmetrical.
At the front, I’ll go deep. From the eagerly leaning, swirling form emerges a face serene and terrible. Highly finished, realistic, whereas the back is impressionistic, rough-hewn, almost crude.
Descending to a shapely breast and softly rounded belly and loins. These will be carved into the heartwood. With any luck there will be striking grey streaks, shot through the pale wood.
Sigh. Just what the Western artistic tradition needs: another naked female body bared to the male gaze. Nice one, Dad. A she-devil, because women can only be maiden or monster, am I right?
Freya, you really are an insufferable brat. This will be a strong female figure. Not mawkish or titillating.
Just don’t give it my face, right? I’m traumatised enough by being named after a Norse fertility goddess.
Perish the thought. And Freya is a beautiful name.
Hmm. And you’re not giving it Mum’s face either. Otherwise you’re in for some serious poltergeisting. I have connections.
Don’t threaten me, Freya, sweetheart. You’re a figment of my memory now, remember?
Ouch. Nobody likes to be reminded that they’re dead. It’s a little tactless, Dad.
Sorry, love. But let’s get back to the subject in hand …
As I work the timber, remove sapwood, the heartwood will dry and split. Shakes will open as tensions are released, fibres separate. I’ll either leave them be or fill them with resin. Maybe bronze resin — or gold?
I need a strong, heavy base to support that top-heavy, unstable form — strong, without looking blocky and clumsy. I’m thinking a section of steel rail slotted into the timber, welded to a massive steel baseplate. For bracing, three mouldboards from an old plough. The concave, leaflike shapes will be elegant and the steel strong.
She’s going to be heavy — but will appear weightless if I get this right. It will be quite the engineering challenge. The most daring piece that I’ve ever attempted, conceptually and technically.
I know now what I want to call her. But dare I? They say that naming calls.
Superstitious nonsense. But please, be wary of reliving your old trauma. You don’t want to end up back in the loony bin, dad.
I don’t think they call it that, these days, darling. But thank you for your concern. I’m touched. Truly.
Next week in ‘Naming Calls’:
Work on the piece commences. Skipper the Kelpie is unimpressed …