Jaak Hillen
Processes in Wood
Pine, birch, aspen

It is my thought that without the creative human being, everything would just be left up to repeating itself, for centuries on end. The creative individual is able to break this perpetual mobile. ‘Evolution as mutation’ becomes ‘evolution as progress’.
In ‘processes in wood’, I investigate the evolution that takes place in wood over the course of time. As an artist, I intervene in this process as it is taking place and investigate the traces that time has left up to this point. These traces are of growth, form (all wood grows differently) and death. The wood is bound to its own processes, as we know them in nature. As an artist, I can further humanize those processes. The aspect of ‘time’ then takes on another dimension. It takes on a future.
In my work with wood, I use fire. The integration of fire in my work brings me to follow very specific paths. Often, there is a game with chance, with coincidence. Is coincidence something coincidental, something arbitrary, or is it something handed down to me?
Fire was tamed by man. Man, wood and fire are a trinity. Thanks to wood and fire, in earlier times man was able to survive, to warm himself and cook his food.
As an artist, you discover entirely new things when you work with wood and fire. Fire means destruction, heat, but it also stands for warmth. It consumes, but it also gives energy. Wood stands for growth, for life, for the storage of energy from the sun, which is once again freed by fire. The life-processes that take place in wood are parallel to those of man.
Wood and fire are well matched. They are part of one another. They reinforce one another but can also destroy each other. Here, water plays a regulating role, as does the wind. The wind strengthens it and water diminishes it. I have used these last elements, therefore, to guide the fire. There are now more elements: the creative person who steers, the fire, the wood (made up of flammable material and water) and the wind.
Then there is form. Where does wood get its form from, it’s structure? How do the cells of the seed of an oak tree knew where they have to grow? Some say that it is in the DNA. But this is not an explanation. It is not because it has a chain on it that makes a bicycle move forward. In all cells, by the way, there is the same DNA. In that sense, one cell is no different from another. How does one cell know that it is supposed to become a leaf and another a flower?
As an artist, you come up against different qualities. An oak is not a poplar. It has completely different qualities. These come to the fore during the work, just as a trumpet produces a melody different than a violin’s. For an artist, these qualities are real. It is not a fantasy. Qualities are inherent in a species of wood. And that is not in the DNA, for I have nothing to do with DNA when I am working creatively. It seems as though the wood is saturated by a quality of its own, like a kind of plasma. I have the feeling that as an artist, you are working more with the plasma and less with the material as such. I this idea, I agree with Rupert Sheldrake.
These are the passing thoughts of an artist under the influence of working with ‘processes in wood’.




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