The classification of plants goes back to Aristotle and the Greeks and the early herbal texts with the first systematic collections of leaves started in about 1500 AD. These prints and paintings are important works, preserved in libraries or museums and rarely exposed for appreciation as works of art, but they miss the real life of the leaf.
We would like our children to at least recognize the different trees, but the truth is that too many of us are uncertain and unable to transmit the essential knowledge.
We know that learning is made easier by involving the senses and emotion. We also know that to create art requires emotion and technique coming together in shapes, colours and scents, then perceived by others. Without that combination of emotion and technique, such art is not possible, and learning from it less facile.
For the emotion to arise the artist must be free from the disturbances of ordinary life; there must be no identification or negative emotions. Then the positive emotion can arise from deep in the soul of the artist, from memories of relationships with the surrounding world, often initiated in childhood, with family, friends, pets and nature.
These feelings can be revived when the artist’s senses are awake to recognise those sensations that had stimulated the positive emotions years ago. Now the artist is free to create, to transmit learning with emotion.
For Toni Venzo, we can imagine that the awakening comes when he strolls among the trees, seeing the dappled light through the rustling leaves and treading softly on the carpet of leaves beneath his feet.
Possibly a leaf flutters to ground near him, a leaf that inspires him to recreate its beauty from the timber of its parent tree. Whatever the inspiration is, the outcome is a work of art driven by inspiration, a leaf with the scent of the tree.
The pieces of work that result from this process are not just excellent examples of the wood carver’s art, but also form an open book to teach children, family and friends the nature of forests and trees, and their innate value.
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