Thorhammer (Thor) Beowulf is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University (ANU) researching the art and aesthetics of bonsai and its contribution to the resurgent global interest in the aesthetics of nature and the environment. Thor is also a practising Australian bonsai artist who has studied bonsai in Japan and the U.S. and uses living botanical organisms, trees and bonsai in his art practice. He is the registered bonsai expert at the ANU and has exhibited bonsai at the Art Gallery of NSW during the 2003 Japan Four Seasons Exhibition. He currently maintains the Brett Whiteley bonsai on behalf of the Whiteley Foundation and is a consultant to the Governor-General’s bonsai collection.
In addition to his studies Thor won the prestigious $10,000 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize in Sydney, judged by three trustees from the Art Gallery of NSW in October 2012
With the growing awareness and concerns about environmental despoliation, climate change and the fragile interdependence between humans with their natural environment, this living bonsai sculpture highlights the problematic relationship between humans, technology and the natural world. The artist symbolically deconstructs the natural processes of carbon-based plant growth, photosynthesis and transpiration by representing these natural functions with an array of recycled instruments and mechanical devices of metal, glass and plastic. The centrepiece is the living organism itself, an Australian native Ficus bonsai tree, which here represents all trees as nature’s own efficiently functioning carbon storage and carbon dioxide conversion machines. With this work the artist seeks to raise awareness of the incomparable beauty and sublime functionality of trees and living organisms.