Artist Rose-Marie Caldecott describes how her father inspired her work
From the beginning of my relationship with paint, I have been interested in how a painting might communicate the fact that everything in nature—including ourselves—exists in a state of flux. To be alive means to be in a constant state of change. Yet I noted that we seem to want to live otherwise. We invent stability; we build solid platforms to live upon, we push nature back into manageable proportions. More often than not, life seems to us random and messy, even chaotic. We go about taming and containing it in many different ways. I started to wonder what lay at the heart of this phenomenon, and how it relates to our greater existential struggle. I was starting to explore these philosophical theories through the language of paint. I played with paint in ways that always left room for an element of unpredictability, space for the unexpected alongside my own conscious decisions.
A few months into my Foundation Degree at Oxford Brookes University, I entered into a conversation with my father which would go on to shape the rest of my artistic practice, and will forever influence the way I work. It stemmed from his fascination with fractals: self-similar repeating patterns, which occur throughout nature.
He introduced me to fractal geometry, and I started to see that it could be taken as evidence that the seeming chaos of the natural world is not as random as we might believe. It has an inherent order, a beautiful and efficient geometry. One of the easiest ways to observe these fractal patterns, at the visual level, is to look at the branching of a tree, a river, or even of the bronchial passages in our own lungs. The branch shape itself is irregular, but as it splits, again and again it repeats that same shape in ever smaller form and so creates a pattern. This type of pattern-making is echoed throughout the entirety of nature. It is a deep natural logic that is not created by human reason—an exciting revelation!
My father was approaching this subject from the realm of mathematics, and specifically sacred geometry—a field that, among many others, was fed by his life-long interest in metaphysics. As an artist, I became excited by the prospect of incorporating fractals into my painting and successfully completed my Foundation Degree with a large fractal landscape painting.
During my bachelor’s degree at Falmouth University in Cornwall, my interest in nature’s organically occurring patterns developed further, and it prompted me to think about where mankind fits into this picture. I started to feel that perhaps we could learn something from the way nature grows and organises itself, that we should begin incorporating this lesson into our own systems of organisation and methods of creativity.
As my father developed prostate cancer and as the disease progressed, I puzzled over how unprepared we are for death, especially that of our loved ones. I started to notice how afraid of not being in control we are, and how resistant we are to change. I used this insight to fuel my already strong fascination with mankind in the context of nature. I sought to create paintings that gently encourage the viewer to see the beauty in that which we cannot control. Just as nature unfolds infinitely complex and beautiful fractals, so too will we be opened up to a greater meaning and a richer delight if we simply allow life to reveal itself in its own time and in its own way.
In the years after my father’s death, I have been confronted by the same lessons, in and out of the studio, time and time again. Our choices and desires only go so far, there is always an element to life that is out of our control. Just like working in the garden; I can do my very best to give a plant the best environment, enough water and attention, but there are other forces that I can not predict that will affect its growth. But I have to admit, that the idea of a world where everything went exactly as we wanted, doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Life is beautiful and interesting precisely because of the uncertainty and mystery that lies at its core. I hope to make paintings that remind us of that.
Rose-Marie Caldecott’s artwork can be found throughout this website, and at www.rose-mariecaldecott.co.uk
If you want to learn more about fractals, you might enjoy Stratford Caldecott’s book Beauty for Truth’s Sake (available in our shop) and his blog, Beauty in Education.