View of the project's Moreton Bay Fig tree on a sunny morning.
Microcosm is the title of an art project I undertook which was based on concentrating almost two years' work on one Moreton Bay Fig tree growing in the Adelaide Parklands.
With this project, I produced mainly drawings. I also took many photographs (including 3D photographs), did a few pastel paintings, did some writing and put together some multimedia pieces.
Following is a map that shows the location of the Moreton Bay Fig Tree that was the subject of this project. It is located in the maintained Parklands that surround the city of Adelaide. This tree is in the Parklands directly between the city of Adelaide and North Adelaide.
This tree is a natural magnet for most people who walk past it. I have met many people there who feel that it's 'the best tree in Adelaide'. It is certainly a mighty organism, looking very healthy and strong.
While working at the tree, I have often been asked by other people walking past if I knew how old the tree is? Their feeling was that it looks about 400-500 years old. The problem with that is that Moreton Bay Fig trees are native to southeast Queensland and hadn't naturally spread to growing in the area around Adelaide. Therefore, the tree had to be planted deliberately, by people with the technical know-how and ability to transplant and transport a seedling reasonably quickly from an area a long way away. The likelihood was that the tree was planted after 1835 - the approximate starting date of the invading English colony to South Australia. A horticultural technical officer at the Adelaide City Council said that to her best research the tree was planted in 1875-1880, which puts the tree at an age of about 125 - 130 years old.
I first encountered this tree in 1983, reasonably soon after moving to Adelaide, and I spent considerable time then doing some serious drawings of it. At that time it would have been about 105 -110 years old. In the 20 or so years since then, I've only noticed very minor changes to the tree's forms, such as some of the extremities of the long horizontally extending boughs dropping a little. The tree seems to be going through a very stable time in its life.
I realised when I first came across the tree in 1983 that it was an excellent place to be at, but now I am seeing just how special that one tree is. It is a huge tree, with branching very close to the ground. One can easily get amongst its massive boughs and the spaces between them. That is something very unusual in itself. But the tree also has a vast network of twisting buttress roots that makes it feel like an inviting play ground. Being close to the tree means being in a changed environment; heavily darkened by the thick canopy of rubbery leaves, surrounded by many active birds with tropical calls in the canopy, amongst pleasant earthy smells of rotting figs and decaying leaves, and an atmosphere where one's senses seem to be heightened (there are masses of interesting details everywhere one looks).
The tree's canopy is approximately an elliptical shape: about 44 metres long by 38 metres wide, covering an area of approximately 1300 square metres (or one and a half average suburban house blocks).
The tree's exposed buttress root systems cover an approximate elliptical shape of about 25 metres by 23 metres.
The new work was to explore:
The project began tentatively with a few exploratory drawings in September 2004. After finishing some other drawings and moving house through November and December 2004, I worked on the project from January 2005 and it 'officially concluded' at the end of July 2006. The fact is, many of the ideas begun in this project have not been satisfactorily completed, and work on the project has continued to this day (but not at the exclusion of other projects). I know now that the project was really just a starting point for many worthwhile ideas. I hope to refine and continue the project into the future.
Shown in this gallery are just a small number of pleasing pieces from the project.