Bees: They’re the progenitors of the natural world, critical pollinator of the world’s food crops and yardstick of the environment’s health.
They’re also decidedly tricky to recreate artistically form – unless you can find a good hardware store handy.
Villawood’s artist-sculptor-magician Folko Kooper is pretty handy in a hardware store. He’s been banging up all manner of metallic works for years now and, more often than not, with deep ties to the natural world.
Bees are about as deep as it gets. And with a few widgets, stainless steel fittings and brass straps in Folko’s hands, it’s surprising just what he can come up with.
Folko has been working on bees as part of an ongoing collaboration with mainland residential developer Villawood Properties.
For years, he’s been crafting native birds, animals and plants from russet-coloured corten steel and throwing them up in its housing developments up and down the eastern seaboard.
It’s a serious catalogue: Pelicans, eagles, emus, cockatoos galore, parrots, kangaroos, falcons, ibis, butterflies, dragonflies, penguins, wrens, lyrebirds, swans, platypus, peacocks, roses, daffodils, oak and grape leaves, tulips and sunflowers …
Many of them are gigantic, others more modestly sized. Whimsical, evocative and educational, they provide a curious and warm sense of place to Villawood’s projects.
But Folko’s stainless steel and brass bees take things to a new level.
Villawood is unusual for the fact that for every block of land it sells, it donates a block of bushland the same size to state forest. It’s up around 570 hectares at present.
Apiarists in that bushland produce 2000kg a year of honey for Villawood, which in turn gives it all away in 1kg tubs to clients.
From Folko’s perspective, bees deserve respect, for more than one reason …
“Maureen, my partner and muse, is a bee-keeper so I have a close living arrangement with them, two hives in the back yard,” he says.
“And because sometimes that was a bit too close, I have learned to respect them.
“You could also say that the bees are a good role model for us at the moment. They’re one community, all striving for one goal. In our case, we should take inspiration when dealing with coronavirus.”