The regeneration of silk cotton trees – sculpture exhibition

     Dr Paul Barber inspects the dying Bombax with Dr Thu, local elders and the Buddhist Monk

Sculpture Works “Wood Regeneration”

On the 30th of April, 2016 (the 41st anniversary of the liberation of the South Vietnam, 1974), at the Exhibition Centre for Contemporary Art, there will be a very special exhibition of works by 15 artists from the Fine Art Association of Vietnam.

The sculpture works are mainly made from the wood of two 300+ year old Bombax trees that had been located in front of a pagoda of the Dong Cao village until recently.

Story of the Bombax Trees

In 2012 Dr Paul Barber was invited along with his good friend Dr Thu, to Dong Cao Village, Yen Loc Commune, Y Yen district, Nam Dinh Province about 1.5 hours south of Hanoi, Vietnam, to inspect two dying Bombax (Bombax ceiba) trees over 300 years of age.

The Bombax is commonly known as the silk cotton tree in Vietnam. This tree belongs to the family Malvaceae, the same family that includes the famous Australian boab trees. Bombax ceiba is native to the tropics of Asia and has a very tall and straight habit (commonly referred to as a hero tree), is deciduous, and has a very beautiful bloom of red flowers. This tree is very important as a food source in Thailand, the flowers are used to make a tea in Hong Kong, and the bark is used as a medicine in Vietnam. It typically grows to around 20m tall but trees up to 60m in height have been recorded.

The Bombax tree is widely planted throughout Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Stories date back to the 2nd century BC of this tree being provided as a gift to emperors of China and Vietnam. When travelling throughout Vietnam the distinctive bombax can be seen in villages, often growing within or at the entrance to Buddhist pagodas.

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Traditional lacquer etching of two Bombax trees standing at the entrance to the pagoda in Dong Cao village. Artist: Mr Dang Thanh Long

Upon my visit to Dong Cao village it struck me how large and significant these two trees outside of the entrance were. I was met by the village elders and the resident Buddhist monk of the Pagoda. I was viewed with curiosity by school children, many who I suspect had only ever seen a foreigner like myself on TV. What also struck me too was that the people were very happy, friendly, and hopeful that I could save these two magnificent trees.

I was informed of the fact that these trees were regarded as an incredibly important part of this village, and stories were shared about their history. The village people considered chopping down the trees during the period of French occupation to stop the approaching tanks, but decided not to as the trees standing and living were more important. Traces of the war with the French still exist within the wood of these trees. During the American war people climbed these trees to look across the district for the approaching enemy, as the trees were by far the highest vantage point. These trees survived many years of intense bombing by the enemy, with the wood making food and weapons for national defence. These were not just trees, but as the Buddhist monk explained to me through translation, they were like very old people with their own soul. They had been the spiritual symbol of the local people. I felt an incredible amount of pressure to save these trees. Mr Long, a renowned artist who grew up in the village but now lives elsewhere, crafted a traditional porcelain bowl with ink artwork to commemorate this moment of hope.

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Traditional porcelain bowl, crafted by Dang Thanh Long, with ink artwork to commemorate this moment of hope.

I was concerned about the severity of their decline in health, with severe damaged sustained to their base and root system through recent changes in levels and construction. These trees had been heavily attacked by the larvae of the cerambycid borer, Batocera rufomaculata. I pulled on my knowledge of what may work, explaining to the villagers that we needed to remove the infill around the base and I attempted systemic treatment of the trees to improve their vigour, along with some foliar feeding and soil treatment. Over the following 12 months the trees, the tree showed some signs of recovery, however, they slipped into a state of further decline and died.

My visit to the village was full of sadness. I was devastated as I’m sure the local people were. I explained that it was now important that the wood be used to remember these historic trees. I donated funds to have the wood kept for later crafting of furniture for the pagoda and small pieces for the local people. I later learnt that it was considered bad luck by the local people to keep anything that belonged to the pagoda. My idea was not so good after all.  I had another idea! Could Mr Long gather his artist friends and create some beautiful sculptures from the wood. I was sure that although the wood from the Bombax is considered low quality, the extensive fungal decay and borer galleries throughout this wood could be highlighted as important features of these sculptures, celebrating not only the amazing life of these trees, but also the biology that existed with them and ultimately led to their death. Mr Long and his friends agreed that this was a good idea. We met with the president of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association who gave their full support to this idea.

The trunks were cut into pieces and moved to Hanoi Art University so that 18 artists from the Vietnam Fine Art Association could choose the pieces and develop their ideas.  After 3 weeks, the artists created many lively sculptures from the silk cotton trunks. It is very difficult to create sculptures from silk cotton wood because they have such low quality wood

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Mr Dang Thanh Long carving his sculpture

The wonder of talented hands

Thanks to the skillful hands and creative brains, the sculptors took round sections and the decayed wood and fungal mycelium on the trunks to create the works of art. Pham Sinh – a sculptor used the decayed pieces to express his ideas. He explained, ” Since the silk cotton trees held great meaning, I am well aware of my responsibility to create a new spirit and a new life. I used the decayed wood pieces to create the sculptures which are high in shape and have great meaning to overcome the pain. The silk cotton trees are alive again.”

Most sculptures in the exhibition “The regeneration of silk cotton trees” are expressive of their creator’s ideas in accordance with abstractive style. The sculptors completed the works of art over a short period of time. However, there are many quality and delicate works of art. Luu Danh Thanh, the Chairman of Sculptural Art Council – Vietnamese Art Association commented: “The artists created the everlasting works of art from the dead trees. These sculptures contain unique beauty and importantly offer an artistic sense for the viewer. Obviously, the silk cotton trees are not only the pride of Dong Cao inhabitants but also the pride of sculptors currently. From decayed trunks, a valueless wood piece was regenerated to turn into a new life and artistic life.”

The exhibition will commence on 19 April 2016 at the Exhibition Centre for Contemporary Art in Vietnam. Dr Paul Barber will attend the opening, along with Mr Dang Thang Long. The exhibition precedes the anniversary of 41 years of liberation of South Vietnam (30 April 1974).

 

Tác phẩm điêu khắc “gỗ tái sinh”

Nhân kỷ niệm 41 năm giải phóng miền Nam (30/4/1975 – 30/4/2016), Trung tâm triển lãm mỹ thuật đương đại trưng bày các tác phẩm điêu khắc của 15 nhà điêu khắc của Hội Mỹ thuật Việt Nam. Tác phẩm chủ yếu là gỗ của cây Gạo trồng trước cửa Chùa làng Đống Cao, xã Yên Lộc, Huyện Ý Yên, tỉnh Nam Định, có tuổi thọ hơn 300 năm.

Trải qua bao thăng trầm của lịch sử, những dấu vết của chiến tranh của thời Pháp thuộc vẫn còn hiện hữu trong thân cây, cây vẫn đứng hiên ngang xanh tốt. Những năm chiến tranh phá hoại của Mỹ ở miền Bắc, hai cây gạo này là nơi ngụy trang, che giấu lương thực, đạn dược phục vụ quốc phong. Cây là biểu tượng thiêng liêng của dân làng.

Cây cũng như người, tuổi già, cây bị sâu, bệnh. Dân làng đã mời các chuyên gia trong và ngoài nước đến cứu chữa cho cây, nhưng do quá muộn, cây đã chết!

Với ý tưởng tái sinh của nhà khoa học Ôxtrâylia, Tiến sỹ paul Barber, Các nghệ sỹ của Hội Mỹ thuaath Việt Nam với khối óc và bàn tay điêu luyện đã biến thân hai cây gạo thành các tác phẩm nghệ thuật sống mãi trong long người dân.

Nghệ sỹ: Đặng Thành Long

 

 

Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS) or ‘Drones’ – are they the answer for precision vegetation monitoring?

Unmanned Airborne Systems (UAS), Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAV), or Drones as commonly referred to, have captured the imagination of people. Their potential applications are almost endless, but are they the most appropriate platform for collection of airborne imagery on vegetation cover and condition.

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Change detection multispectral imagery at 1m pixel resolution acquired from fixed-wing plane. Inset: 1cm true colour imagery acquired using an UAS.

ArborCarbon scientists have been conducting research on the applications of satellite and airborne multi and hyperspectral imagery for more than 10 years. The variety of platforms carrying the sensing device (e.g. camera) include satellite, fixed-wing plane, helicopter and UAS. The range of sensors attached to these platforms include multispectral and hyperspectral imaging devices. ArborCarbon scientists first started using UAS in projects for capturing airborne imagery over vegetation monitoring sites in 2010 and were the first company in the world to do so for vegetation monitoring to determine the potential impacts of groundwater drawdown and alteration of sheet flow on mulga and riparian communities in Australia.

We are very selective about using UAS platforms for the capture of airborne imagery to measure and monitor vegetation cover and condition, including in precision agriculture and measurement of NDVI, as we have a close understanding of all the factors that affect these measurements. The arrival of many new ‘drone’ platforms and cheap multispectral cameras onto the market has certainly raised the profile of remote sensing and its potential application for precision vegetation management. However, there are many times when there are greater costs associated with acquiring data using these platforms due to mobilisation, limitations on battery life, and processing time.

We encourage anybody looking to use remote sensing for precision vegetation monitoring, whether that be for trees, horticulture, agriculture or turf, to carefully consider the range of platforms and sensors available, and discuss these with people who have an unbiased view.

The Giving Tree

 

Going to the trouble of building around  beautiful mature trees is well worth the effort.

This amazing home which was built by the principal of Modal Design in the LA suburb of Venice, California, is a great example.  Read the article about this project in Dwell Magazine .

California has a hot and dry climate similar to many parts of Australia and US designers in the warmer states like California and Texas especially, are increasingly incorporating mature amenity trees in their designs, with stunning results.

Studies show that trees  add value to properties, so it is about visual appeal.  As urban temperatures rise, properties with large shade trees will become increasingly sought after.

The benefits are both visual and tangible  Outdoor areas like the one below can be enjoyed from day one in a new home, improving quality of life immensely.  Man-made shade sails and structures just don’t enhance the amenity or cool like big shade trees.

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At ArborCarbon we have received a noticeable increase in enquiries from planners and designers requesting Arboricultural reports in their initial site context analyses, with the objective of retaining and building around existing trees.  Builders are also contacting us for advice on how to protect trees on construction sites.

It is great  to see more people thinking outside the square and incorporating and protecting beautiful mature trees. The health benefits provided to the occupants of a dwelling by surrounding trees should not be underestimated.