COMPASS STUDIO TAKES 5.
Meet Dave Aldous, an Australian artist who travels the world creating unique and beautiful pressings from fallen trees. Working by hand, Dave slowly uncovers a trees raw identity, highlighting all of their amazing characteristics – paying homage to life, and an intimate moment in time.
Read the full article here
North Journal issue 16
Words by Mon Barton
Found along the East Coast of Australia in all good retailers.
A personal look into weighted lines
My first encounter with Dave was at Bayleaf Cafe, Byron Bay. New to town and in need of coffee I was steered in the direction of ‘that really rad but really busy’ cafe on Marvell Street with rumours of the best cuppa joe in town. I was yet another customer adding to the plethora of coffee dockets and Dave was yet another long haired barista in Byron! Bayleaf quickly became my everyday with a need for coffee parallel to my need for the Bayleaf greeting. Hugs, conversations and smiles by the plentiful I began to form friendships with almost every staff member there with one intriguing me the most; Dave.
His soft shy nature is the exterior to a humble creative, full of gratitude and knowledge. As coffee making funded life and bill paying he worked on his creative outlet behind the scenes and still managed to put passion forward in every shift at Bayleaf making my perception of him a positive one.
As I took a drive out to Dave’s house I couldn't help but notice the subtle trend of lush large trees tracing the roads that lead me to my destination. When I arrived at the top of a hill, where a quaint A-frame house sat atop and reached the front door, I felt an immediate gentleness. Greeted with soft smiles and conversation at ease it felt only right for me to be there. In true style I was offered a cup of fresh filter coffee brewed in the timber laced kitchen adorned in plants, prints and photos. It only made sense for Dave to reside in a place of humbleness and simplicity, truly complimenting his personality.
We got chatting as my curious mind lead to question after question, in search for the story behind Weighted Lines. Unbeknownst to me, Dave began this journey just 4 short years ago when he and his partner Charley decided to break away from the claustrophobic state that Melbourne city can bring, and delve into the welcoming of nature. With days off being spent mapping new hiking trails, driving hours to new mountain ranges and seeking new sights Dave and Charley quickly became addicted to the free pleasures of natural surroundings. Although charming in its gifting’s and appearance, this new found hobby came with a growing concern for the pattern he noticed of newly cleared pathways for the convenience of human access. Dave reccounted to me the day he came across a huge tree that had been freshly cut for clearing, revealing its every ring, every year of life and he just stood in awe, touching and smelling for the longer part of 20 minutes. He admits that he couldn’t stop thinking about it, wanting to know how he could preserve such beauty, create a new lease on life and and help tell it’s story.
With a background of Carpentry and a curious mind, Dave jumped at an opportunity when he saw an advertisement for cleared pine up for offer. This was the beginning of the arduous trial-and-error journey every great artist must condure. Compiling the research and inspiration of traditional Japanese artisans who have been printmaking, wood burning and reclaiming contours for years, Dave experimented and found his knack, perfecting the process. From seeking out a specific tree to hand sawing, hand planing and burning to finally press the Japanese paper to relieve each print saw him into the next step of strategizing how to upgrade yet downsize his tools. Walking hours through thick bushland and catching flights overseas proved difficult with large, heavy tools and camping equipment strapped to his back.
The first set of prints that dave felt a true success within found themselves as submissions to a local art gallery. All similar in appearance by being apart of the same family yet considerably disparate, he felt a strong sense to give them individual identities just how we each have names. This was the birth of pairing each print of each tree with its rightful coordinates making it not only another aesthetical component but a deeper knowledge of that trees residency in the world. Dave found this to be a vital part of giving viewers factual material that compliments a visual so rich in historic textures.
Dave expressed the visceral experience he has come to know by spending time out in quietness amongst the tall giants and that seeing first light weave through and fall on new breadths, revealing nature’s contours is an antidote to all worriment. This was an integral part of what facilitated the since 4 year journey of Weighted Lines. Travelling overseas twice, taking several trips to Victoria and embarking on many adventures in surrounding national parks of the Byron Shire has seen Dave to showcase 7 prints from 7 different trees and tell their stories. This lead him to host his first solo exhibition in September 2017, reaching a new milestone for both his personal life and the life of Weighted Lines. I had great pleasure in attending the night held at Bayleaf Cafe and contributing to the crowd that may have seemed like a human flash flood on Marvell Street to any passerby.
Upon circling the crowd, overhearing conversations and weaving through an abundance of supportive humans, I felt an immense sense of pride wash over me. This was not for myself, but merely as a spectator of Dave’s achievement because just like me, there were a high percentage of people who never truly knew the artist behind ‘Weighted Lines’. This was proof that Dave was not in anyway a master of art for the sake of prosperity, he was a master of paying homage to trees and their families, celebrating their existence of enriching ours.
It’s quite incredible really, how one can come to acquire such a skill of bringing substance to something we turn a blind eye on and place such sincerity in leaving a literal mark, allowing it a voice when it had been silenced. To reach the point of passion for a technique he never planned on learning and turning that into hard copy stories for every year a tree has lived, shaded us, and brought purity to our air can only be attained by the craftsmanship of a true artisan. He creates a visual that enthralls an entire room with a comforting aesthetic of a trees destruction mitigated by the devotion of a human. And what better way to unify such works than with the perfect encasing of wooden frames built by the hands of that same human. Selflessly displaying the many truths a tree can give, tirelessly building and perfecting a frame that doesn’t just support the physicality of his art, but the beauty of another tree in a different medium.
With a limit of 10 original relief prints per tree creates a rarity of Dave’s work, becomes a temptation and a deeper lust for his work, turning aspiring art owner’s into immediate collectors. To some if not all, the incredibly perfected application of print to paper may look like a hand drawn masterpiece created by the very roots of that tree; as if it were creating a self portrait. However this is the product of precision and attention to detail mixed with the passion for portraying its story, curating each piece on the spot with the tree in the very place it grew.
And so through deepening my understanding of Dave, I have come to know him as a humble man who makes space for everyone and everything through conscious thought. When I first saw the artwork Dave was producing I found the correlation between his personality and his work uncanny. There is no prejudice, there is no judgment there is always honesty and so by showcasing the uniqueness of every tree, he portrays the essence of how every human is different to you; every tree is different too.