News Home & Design Artist's Hybrid Sculptures Merge Reclaimed Industrial By-Products With Plant Life These distinctive artworks ask us to reconsider the distinction between industry and regeneration, resilience and fragility. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published April 16, 2021 05:11PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checker Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a writer, fact checker, and conservationist with a certification in sustainability. Our Fact-Checking Process Article fact-checked on Apr 19, 2021 Haley Mast Jaime North Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices The intersecting relationship between humans and nature is fertile ground for all kinds of creativity and insights. They might be scientific and innovative in nature, like using the principles of biomimicry to come up with useful inventions, or agriculturally useful, like tapping into permacultural strategies to boost soil productivity and food production. Or, that human-nature connection might be a bit more contemplative and artistic in nature, prompting us to reflect on a deeper level about how natural forces affect our lives. As someone exploring the sometimes-fraught junction between human-made artifacts and nature's abundant plant life, Australian sculptor Jamie North fits into the latter category. As the creator of slender, craggy architectural forms made from a combination of cement, marble waste, steel slag, coal ash, and living plant matter, North's work seems to skillfully walk the sometimes blurry line between the artificial and natural, and between other dichotomies like "progress and collapse, industry and ruin, melancholy and triumph." Jaime North Due to his choice of materials — some of it is reclaimed industrial by-products — North's sculptures seem to start off solid at the base, before seeming to crumble away as they gradually rise up, apparently overtaken by the profusion of plants like kidney weeds, kangaroo vines, and Port Jackson figs that spring up from within their cores. Jaime North It's an interesting juxtaposition and an instructive bit of sleight of hand, as North explains on his website: "The jagged edges of [the] poetically eroded forms expose a variety of aggregates such as coal ash and steel slag, which despite having the appearance of volcanic rock, are by-products of industry. This redemptive re-use of the waste generated by human activity sits alongside that most definitive of regenerative processes: the succession of nature." Jaime North Though the sculptures may seem simple, they actually have a lot of thought and meticulous effort behind them. North's creative process first starts by modeling the idea on paper or in a computer program. Jaime North Then supportive steel armatures are built if they are needed, and a formwork made, typically either from plywood or cardboard. Then more detailed molds are made out of clay and the larger aggregates that will end up being exposed in the final work. As North explains in this interview with Aesthetica, these formworks and molds function as a kind of "negative" sculptural form, which has a great influence on the final "positive" three-dimensional imprint: "Once this negative sculpture is completed, the concrete mix is poured in, vibrated and left to cure before being stripped. Final finishing involves scraping away the clay which in my mind is reminiscent of an archaeological process, as the material placements and decisions behind these are revealed." Jaime North Similarly, a lot of consideration goes into selecting the plants that populate these recycled industrial forms. For instance, in his sculptural series Rock Melt (as seen in the main image at the very top), featuring tall, spiraling pillars entwined with vegetative life, North chose to use a plant indigenous to Australia called wonga wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana). This woody vine species' tendency to climb up meshes perfectly with the verticality of the man-made forms. In addition, wonga wonga vine is widespread in the varied ecosystems across Australia and features prominently as a culturally and technologically significant source of mythology and highly flexible tool-making materials for many of Australia's Aboriginal peoples. Says North: "Over time, this vine becomes very woody and will meld with sculpture, blurring the distinction between the organic and the inorganic and becoming part of the work's structure." Jaime North Ultimately, North says that his work asks the viewer to pause and look more closely. It's a tangible call to consider more deeply the often challenging relationship between the world of humans and the natural world, which may be more undefined than we might think: "I never want to be too prescriptive, though I would like viewers to see complexity behind the apparent simplicity of the work. That means considering the distinctions between such things as the man-made and the natural, resilience and fragility, and the exotic and the indigenous." To see more, visit Jamie North.