LUKE ANTHONY : EVERYTHING HAS PROVENANCE
Trees teach us about respect. They elegantly embody life and it’s cycles, and remind us that everything has provenance.
To Luke Anthony, this may look like wood carving a representation of a bird that may have once perched on that very branch before a tree was felled. It may look like immortalising a significant piece of family history as he creates a carving for them out of the wood from the old family boat. Nothing in nature lives for itself. We constantly borrow, and we give back, all things from the earth and for the earth. In knowing this, Luke has crafted a sustainable art practise - having not yet had to ever buy wood to complete his work, and he respects wholeheartedly the land that provides him with his materials, and the community that provides him the opportunity to do what he loves to do.
In a generation so impatient and insistent on many pursuits in one lifetime being a stamp of success, Luke is testament to the reality that sticking to a discipline, building upon humble roots from the ground up, is in fact what breeds the greatness.
Do you think the landscape and lifestyle we have in New Zealand, and Central Otago in particular, lend an advantage to producing more meaningful art?
“I could do my art anywhere in New Zealand, but there are unique advantages to Maniototo and Central Otago as it’s dry climate preserves wood so it doesn't rot into the earth or get eaten to bits. The landscape doesn't really inspire the birds, because there’s even less native birds in Central than anywhere else, but I notice them more because it’s so sparse. There are trade offs - I could live somewhere wetter where there are more birds, but that wouldn't preserve the wood…
Also, I’ve found Central Otago exceptionally friendly compared to any other place I’ve lived in New Zealand, but when coming to Ranfurly that friendliness seemed to be even more concentrated. I don’t know whether the landscape helps inform the community that lives on it and in it, but I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn't moved here and met the people and artists I have.”
“I think I must have showed an interest in birds from quite a young age, because I remember my Nanna giving me this book - ‘the readers digest complete book of New Zealand birds’, and I used to frequent the library for others, which have now become quite a collection.”
What would your advice be to someone who feels blocked in their creativity?
“I read a study that says to be an expert at something you either need to put 10 years or 10,000 hours into it. So what I’d say to people is even if you feel like you could never do that, if you start on it and eventually produce and persevere to the point of 10,000 hours you’ll be as expert at guitar playing as Mike Knopfler. I went through periods where I felt like I was never going to advance in my painting, never going to get better than I was. It was frustrating because it felt like there was a plateau that I was on and couldn't get off, until I sort of knuckled down and actually did something rather than just worry about it. You'll produce something that’s not perfect but somewhere in it you’ll get a glimpse of your breakthrough, and that will inform the next one, and that next one will be better. Somewhere the penny will drop because you’re endeavouring to find the key to unlock your understanding of something. It will happen. It’s almost a metaphor for life too - you just need to get through what you’re going through to get to the other side of something, and who knows what’s beyond that, but it will never be forever this bad.”
Do you have any specific rituals or habits you engage in before you start your practice?
“I’ve often heard people say ‘oh I’m waiting for the thing to come out of the wood’ or ‘I just carve and the bird comes out of it’, but to paraphrase a saying that’s used in scuba diving you plan your dive and you dive your plan. That’s how you stay safe. I plan my birds and I carve them. I see a block of wood and think it could be anything, and then I just plan it. Research is a big part of what I do. Technical drawing was my best subject at school, whereas art was one of my worst subjects because it’s very subjective, but with technical drawing you could learn it from a book basically. In woodwork you plan a shelf and a table, then once you've got the materials you know that it’s just time and distance until you’ll have a table. There’s nothing mystical about it. If you’ve got the materials you know it’ll be what you intend it to be.”
How does your environment or location affect your creative process?
“I like walking in to the space that I’ve created to work in. I couldn't do it in a sterile spot, it wouldn't suit what I do. One of the things I feel very strongly about is creating any space where you can come back to find it as you left it, rather than pack it up. That’s what mums always do! It pulls you out of the zone and makes it harder to get back into it (the work) but if you’ve got a space where you can just drop tools and take off you come in and see it again all of a sudden you’re back into it. My environment is a luxury in that way.”