hands

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Today is Earth Day 2022 so I’m going to share one of my most recent sculptures with an environmental message: A Hand Between Sky and Earth.

 

Simon O'Rourke standing next to a tree that he will carve into the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth The tree is around five times his height and has a white building in the background to the left and a few shorter trees to the right.

Simon with the tree that would become A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture

 

Earth Day 2022

Before I jump into the story of the A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture, what is Earth Day? And why is it relevant?

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org, and focuses on raising awareness and mobilising people to do their part in caring for the environment.

Care for the environment is something close to my heart. That’s why it’s always great to receive a commission for a project like A Hand Between Sky and Earth or The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy where I can use art to convey a message about caring for our planet.

 

Initial sketch for A Hand Between Sky and Earth. The photo of the tree is faded and a hand sketched sculpture of a hand is overlaid so clients could see what it would look like.

One of the initial sketches for A Hand Between Sky and Earth

 

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture: How It Began

Back in November, I had an enquiry about a sculpture on Sardinia. A tree in the village of Allai had become dangerous and needed to be cut down. The council didn’t want to cut it down completely and hoped I could transform it into a work of art.

They shared how they believe trees represent a natural resource of great significance. They’d researched their options and believed this was a good way to “save” the tree at the same time as embellishing and enhancing it. In the words of the client:

We love nature, we have lots of respect for our vegetation and probably your same love can help us to preserve our trees but in a different amazing way.

As well as preserving the tree, the sculpture was to serve the dual purpose of (hopefully!) becoming a tourist attraction.
New life for the tree, and increased benefit for the village!
Definitely a meaningful commission!

 

simon o'rourke stands in a cherry picker and uses a chainsaw to carve a sculpture into an standing tree trunk. in the background there is a white building.

Working on A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

The Message Behind A Hand Between Sky and Earth Scultpure

The sculpture I created needed to be something that would capture the imagination and draw people to see it, but also needed to reflect the preservation aspect of the commission. Although the initial enquiry asked about wildlife sculptures, after some conversation, we settled on an outstretched hand. Something reaching between the material to the spiritual world that, like the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, also represented the struggle of the tree to reach the sky.

To me, the hand is fitting as hands are a way to connect with the earth. They’re how we touch rocks, the earth and the trees. With our hands, we work the earth to grow food or build.

My sculpture is a symbol of this tactile connection with the world. It’s also a reminder that we use our hands to steward it, and the sculpture invites us to take care of it.

The hand position can be seen as an extension to gently touch or make a statement. The slightly straightened finger is meant to suggest a gentle command or complaint. ”

 

simon o'rourke's A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Responses To A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

It’s only been a couple of weeks since finishing the commission, and the sculpture is already serving its purpose.

The municipal council are delighted with the finished sculpture. They describe it as “A symbolic work for a community, a careful warning to safeguard a territory that does not want to give up [but rather] fights for a prosperous and luxuriant future, with trust, determination and an obstinate love for the surrounding nature“.

 

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

One local lady who saw the sculpture being created was inspired to write a poem where she describes it as

A hand reaching out to the sky
like a cry for help to God
to save the planet and its ruin
that gradually falls into oblivion.”
Pina Frongia
the back of the hand on simon o'rourkes A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture. the only background is a grey-ish sky. lots of wood grain is visible in the hand

Visiting A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Others on social media have been asking how they can go and see the sculpture, fulfilling its second role of helping to bring tourists to the area and strengthen the economy. It’s great both purposes are being fulfilled so soon!
If you are one of the people who would like to visit, it’s SO easy to find using What3words!
Either open the app and search for ///hangdog.candlestick.precocious or just click here.
And after experiencing the wonderful food, weather, scenery and hospitality in Allai (thanks to our new friends we met there!), Liz and I definitely recommend a holiday on Sardinia!
simon o'rourke and a female stand beneath the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth, a giant hand carved into a standing tree trunk about 20ft tall.

With one of our hosts in Allai

 

Other Environmental Considerations

Of course, it isn’t enough to just create art that challenges people to care for the earth, helpful as art can be in communicating an important message. I’m also aware of the potential environmental cost of chainsaw carving and minimise impact where I can.

What does that look like?

First, I never carve or cut down a healthy tree for sculpture. Rather, use trees that have died or need to be felled due to disease, damage, or danger to people/places and give life back to them as art.

 

screenshot of simon o'rourke's instagram account showing he is a member of titan treecycle initiative

Members of Treecycle display ‘Titan Treecycle Member’ on their social media accounts.

 

I’m also part of Titan Treecycle. This is an initiative that encourages chainsaw artists to plant trees to replace the ones they use. Although the timber I use has never come from healthy trees, I’m aware that chainsaw carving impacts the environment in other ways. For example, travel for commissions or events, emissions from our tools. So I joined the initiative to offset my carbon footprint, not just replace the wood I use.

If you’re looking for a chainsaw artist for a commission, Titan Chainsaw Carving on Instagram is a great place to find artists, and then check that they display  “Treecycle Member” in their profile.

 

a white tiled building in the background. in front is the hand between sky and earth sculpture by simon o'rourke; a giant hand carved into the top of a tree trunk

 

Final Thoughts

It’s obviously exciting as an artist to be able to create art that challenges people to think about the environment. It’s great to post about it on Earth Day too. My hope though is that our thoughts and actions go far beyond this one day, that care for the earth becomes second nature to us all, and that we can all gradually make slow, sustainable changes that help preserve our incredible planet.

What changes have you been working on?

As always, if you are interested in a sculpture for your home, business, or community, fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in watching the creation of A Hand Between Sky and Earth, check out the video below too!