Melbourne-born, Timothy Horn is a leading contemporary artist and designer living and working in Massachusetts (USA). Horn reinterprets forms found in nature into sculptural works made from blown glass, cast crystal and various metals. His work references decorative art objects and often explore the intersection between natural and constructed worlds.

A seventeenth century pattern for a hair-ornament was the starting point for Horn’s Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident). Horn magnified and expanded the pattern before creating a structure in wax and casting it in bronze, which was then nickel-plated to transform its surface. The subtitle Trident references a human-made catastrophe – specifically the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 and the Trident tree, a tree deformed as the result of radiation exposure. The term trident is also the name for a three-pronged spear attributed to Neptune, Greek god of the sea and earthquakes.

Gorgonia 5 (full fathom five), 2015 was inspired by seventeenth century jewellery patterns by Gilles Légaré court jeweller to Louis XIV’s and illustrations of lichen (fungus), coral and seaweed in zoologist Ernst Haeckl’s nineteenth century book, Art Forms in Nature. Horn visited Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in 2008 where he witnessed the damaging effects of climate change on the coral that forms the world’s largest living structure. Gorgonia 5 (full fathom five) addresses Horn’s concern about climate change and human contribution to environmental disasters.

Did you know?

  • The title Gorgonia 5 references gorgonian coral. This coral is soft and commonly known as sea fans due to its flat and branching forms. There are about 500 species found particularly in the oceans of the western Atlantic and the West Indies.
  • Gilles Légaré was a Parisian jeweller to Louis XIV who was known for his highly decorative broches with mounted stones and painted enamel flowers and leaves. Horn’s Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident) and Gorgonia 15 (Sycoraxz) were inspired by a hair-ornament and chandelier earring pattern by Légaré.
  • What does Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident) remind you of?
  • Which parts of Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident) appear smooth or rough?
  • Describe Gorgonia 5 (Full Fathom Five) in as much detail as possible. Based on your description, if this work of art was a person who would it be and why?
  • With a friend brainstorm what you know about the Great Barrier Reef and coral generally. Compare your responses to your observations of Gorgonia 5 (Full Fathom Five).
  • Define the terms decorative art and fine art. Find examples of each category as you explore the Gallery. Can you find any works of art that could be considered both decorative and fine art? Share your findings with your class.
  • After viewing Horn’s work, explore the Gallery’s permanent collection. Select a decorative work of art and pair it with either Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident) or Gorgonia 5 (Full Fathom Five). Why did you make this selection?
  • Baroque works of art are often described as exaggerated or overdecorated. Research works of art created during the Baroque period. Explain how Horn’s work has been inspired by the Baroque. Compare Horn’s work to that of Kate Rohde.
  • Horn sometimes references Greek mythology, such as the trident, a three-pronged spear attributed to Neptune Greek god of the sea and earthquakes, and Gorgon or Medusa, a winged human female with venomous snakes in place of hair (snaking and branching forms). Locate other works of art in the Gallery’s collection that reference Greek mythology. Suggest some reasons why you think Greek mythology remains a source of inspiration for contemporary artists today.

Luca Giordano, born Naples 1634, died Naples 1705, Giuseppe Recco, born Naples 1634, died Alicante 1695, The riches of the sea with Neptune, tritons and two nereids, 1684, Naples, Italy, oil on canvas, 234.5 x 296.0 cm; Mary Overton Gift Fund 1997, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

  • Biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) created over 100 detailed and multicoloured illustrations of animals and sea creatures. Look closely at the work by Horn and engravings by Haeckel. What similarities do you notice about these artists’ works? Select a natural form such as coral, flowers, leaves or plants. Look at your specimen through a magnifying glass. Draw an enlarged and detailed version of your specimen.
  • Create a collage using a combination of natural and manufactured items. When designing your work of art consider texture, colour, contrast and balance.
  • Gorgonia 5 (Full Fathom Five) references a hair ornament pattern designed by Gilles Légaré, a French goldsmith from the seventeenth century, who made jewels for the King of France. Think of someone you admire. Design a piece of wearable art for this person. Consider how your choice of patterns, colours and any embellishments connect with the person you are designing it for.
  • The branching forms in Gorgonia 5 (Full Fathom 5) references the Gorgon or Medusa of ancient Greek mythology. Research a mythological figure such as Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, Poseidon and Zeus. Create a work of art that captures the essence of your character.
  • Create a sculptural work of art from recycled plastics or plasticine that celebrates the extraordinary beauty of a natural environment such as the Great Barrier Reef or a national park. Join your pieces together to create a collaborative class installation.
  • Horn creates works of art that respond to the intersection between the natural and the constructed worlds. Research a human-made event in Australia which has had a devastating environmental impact. Create a work of art that responds to this event.
  • Horn fuses his interest in seventeenth century jewellery with nineteenth century studies of natural forms. Investigate the following as sources of inspiration:
    • Baroque costume jewellery
    • Botanical illustrations by Ernst Haeckel
    • Contemporary artists Julie Blyfield, Lauren Simeoni or Catherine Truman.
      Create a wearable piece of art inspired by antique jewellery making of the past and the natural world. TIP Try using recycled aluminium cans or wire.
  • Biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919) created over 100 detailed and multicoloured illustrations of animals and sea creatures. Compare these nineteenth century coral formation studies to scientific images available today. Evaluate the reliability, validity and usefulness of both these sources. How can images of coral from the nineteenth century inform your understanding of how coral reefs have altered, as a result of human activity?
  • The title Full Fathom Five is a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Ariel’s song spoken by Ferdinand, who believes his father has drowned in a storm at sea. A fathom is a unit of measurement equal to the span a person’s outstretched arms. Fathom, also refers to a problem difficult to comprehend’ – Timothy Horn. Assess the effectiveness of programs currently in place to restore or rehabilitate the Great Barrier Reef. Compare the effects of climate change on coral reefs in Australia to other locations in the world.
  • Significant events contributed to popular awareness of environmental issues, such as the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. Research the immediate and long term impact the Chernobyl accident has had on the natural environment. Investigate this incident and discuss how Horn has referenced this event in his work. Using Horn’s Tree of Heaven 8 (Trident), evaluate its reliability and usefulness as a historical source in understanding the Chernobyl disaster. With your class debate whether Horn’s work of art is a primary or secondary source.