Rik Mars
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The stub of Sy Sy

The history of Sy starts spring 2001 when a neighbour pulls a willow out of the ground where he plans to build a new barn. "You have an idea in it", is his question, and in my imagination I visualise a shape, a new life for an old tree.

It's not too old, however. Fifteen years ago itstarted growing from a branch, stuck into the ground. From four centimetres it grew to become 30 centimetres in diameter over this period of time. The willow has been polled regularly as is custom in our region. The tree is 1,800 m height now. Due to the shallow groundwater level the roots have been growing sidewards mostly.

Looking closer it shows to be not just one tree, but two trees. Close to the willow a maple is growing. It started later and was slower in growth. The roots of the two trees interweave. They are inseparable.

This is not yet visible at the time the trees comes out of the ground. It is a stump with a clod. The roots are concealed in soil. It takes weeks to clean the roots, to potter the soil from in between them, to cut the hair-roots that are everywhere and so efficiently clutch the soil.

The further I get, the better the soil at the inside can get dry, which facilitates the removal. The further I get, the nicer the now exposed root wattle-work shows to be.

Without soil it gets more handy. I flatten the bottom of the roots, so Sy can stand straight. The shape of the tree to get an artificial crown manifests itself more, so at this point I know where to separate the crown from the stump. The wood should dry but should not crack, so I drill a hole through the hearth of the stump and I cut the crown into seven segments. Then I have to take a disappointment. The top of the trunk is rotten severely on the inside. It is not suitable anymore to carry the new crown.

The stump to become Sy stand in the meantime on the front on the street to dry. Its shape and wattle-work of the roots make it a conspicuous object that makes many a passer-by check his stroll. On the other hand it shows to be a thorn in the flesh for someone. The municipal cleansing department is called and comes to collect Sy. Sy is predestined to be disposed of towards the waste burning plant.

That isn't a good idea. I put pressure on the cleansing department to release Sy and bring him back to me. Although I can impress them by showing other work, the workmen do not understand a bit of what I see in a piece of waste. They have to put effort in removing this piece of wood from the container and that is not what is their priority. Only after a full week of phoning and passing by, asking and pleading, Sy comes out of the muggy container. Almost without any injury. But I have to collect him myself. Bringing things back is not the job of these guys of the cleansing department.

It goes without saying that I protect Sy better this time. It stands to dry for a few months in the backyard and than, during winter, hanging from the ceiling of my workshop.

In the meantime I get a piece of maple trunk from a gardener who felled a dead tree to the west of town. This is to be the smaller crown. From another gardener I am given a piece of a willow trunk, to become the the larger crown of Sy.
Also this new crown to be I cut into seven segments of different angles, or rather I have it done this time. And also these seven pieces a put away to dry.

When the sun started to shine warmer it became time to shape Sy further. I adjusted him standing vertically, finished off the top and the roots, turned the crown into the desired shape and started looking for the right form of the wings. After determining this, I choose the colours: the red of maturity, the green of the youth.

Finally I gave Sy his name. Sy stands for symbiosis, helpful interdependence; Sy stands for synergy, together being more than the sum of the parts; Sy stands for the symbol, the new life that comes forth from the one that is past.

Rik Mars
Willow (Salix alba), maple (Acer sp.), coloured Plexiglas
height 1,800 m, width 1,200 m x 1,000 m

I am in search for a good place to exhibit Sy. You like to?