Tree Stories exhibition

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Images from the Tree Stories exhibition at The Art House, Sheffield, 24th October – 6th November 2015

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This South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group (SYBRG) community project was led by Christine Handley and supported by Professor Ian D. Rotherham (Sheffield Hallam University). Funded by a grant from the Arts Council, it set out to record marked and worked trees and enabled SYBRG to work with two artists at community events. The collected Tree Stories were used as inspiration to create new drawings, poems and prints which were displayed in an Art Exhibition at the Art House in Sheffield.

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‘The Tree Stories project takes a closer look at the mysterious marks, objects and tree ‘graffiti’ that appear on trees. The importance of these markings extends from prehistoric times and this ancient form of communication has survived to the present day with people still using trees to record messages and leave objects embedded in them. These trees with their markings can be found in surprising places, from inner city Victorian parks and gardens to great parkland landscapes in the British countryside. They may contain evocative stories and pictures distorted by time or bold deeply incised designs marking territory, sending messages across the years. Others become covered with small objects, coins, left year after year perhaps as offerings with echoes from a dimly remembered past. The project recorded some of these and inspired the works by Tansy Lee Moir and Sally Goldsmith.’ From the Tree Storues booklet accompanying the exhibition.

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See also:

Photographs of the opening event »

More information about SYBRG »

Professor Ian D. Rotherham’s blog »

More about my work on Tree Stories »

 

 

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Exhibitions in 2015

Well this is a first for me €“ I have work currently on show in three different parts of the country…

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Time around trees is showing at Edinburgh€™s St Margaret€™s House.  I have my studio on the top floor of this wonderfully creative, yet admittedly ugly building and I€™ll be taking over Gallery 2 between 6th and 22nd March to show a selection of my work and that of friends Eoin Cox and Catherine Lilley.  Don€™t be put off by its exterior though – if you are in the Edinburgh area it€™s well worth visiting its three galleries, the busy workshop spaces and creative businesses.  There are also regular Open Studio events if you want to see what goes on behind all those doors.

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The Harley Gallery Open Exhibition is a biennial open submission exhibition in the beautifully refurbished Harley Gallery on the Welbeck Estate, Nottinghamshire.  It€™s the second time my work has been selected for the show and it was great to be able to attend the opening this year, which coincided with a trip south to work on the Tree Stories project.  The standard of works was very high and I was pleased to see that the judges had chosen quite a few drawings, my favourite being Barbara Clayton€™s Flow II. You can see the prize-winners here and the show runs until 12th April.

The farm shop is also pretty impressive, with the best cheese and onion pasties a hungry vegetarian artist could wish for.

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This is one of three specially created drawings for React-Reflect-Respond, showing now at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, which accompanies a touring exhibition celebrating the work of Tim Stead, in particular his sculpture.

All of my work relates to the themes of trees, woodland, natural forms and the dialogue between man and nature, exploring the vitality and complexity of tree forms made in response to their environment. The new works for this exhibition are specifically inspired by Tim Stead€™s love for, and celebration of, the wayward nature of wood.  I fell in love with his furniture in Cafe Gandolfi when I first came to Scotland in the mid 1990s, in particular the way he combined powerful design with great sensitivity towards the natural beauty of the wood.

Tim Stead said that €œa man can make an input which reveals nature in an altered beauty€; my €˜input€™ as a visual artist consists of searching out the striking and sculptural aspects of living trees and creating images which try to capture the sense of movement in their static forms.

React-Reflect-Respond continues at Perth Museum and Art Gallery until 6th May.

There’s more about all my exhibitions, past, present and future here and you can also get regular news by liking my facebook page.

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Time Around Trees comes to Edinburgh

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For my latest exhibition I will be joined by artists Eoin Cox and Catherine Lilley, who also share my passion for woodlands. The show will feature drawings, paintings, carvings and prints which examine woodland at different scales, from the powerful presence of a veteran tree, to the intimate surfaces of trees and the plants and organisms which inhabit them.  All the works are made as a direct response to an aspect of woodland; the dynamic curve of a twisted trunk, the texture and structure of a sheet of bark, the delicate detail in a damp tangle of lichen. Together, they invite us to look with fresh eyes at the trees and woodlands around us.

More information on the venue and opening times here »

 

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Society of Scottish Artists Annual Exhibition

Dalkeith burred oak 5 ‘Dalkeith burred oak 5’

Two of my drawings have been selected for the annual Society of Scottish Artists exhibition, to be held at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.  This work, along with ‘Dalkeith reaching oak’ will be on display in this impressive building on Princes Street from the 5th – 20th December.  Artists across Scotland submitted an exciting variety of works which I got a little glimpse of when I was volunteeering at the hand in last week, and many of the paintings, prints, sculptures, installations and things that defy categorisation will be available for sale during the show.  There’s also a new section called ‘Sit in/Take away’ where small affordable works 30 x 30cm can be bought and taken home on the day – what a great idea to encourage art lovers to support makers!

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A first look at ‘Time around trees’

Here are some images from ‘Time around trees’ which opened yesterday and runs until Saturday 1st November…

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Thanks to the wonderful team at the Meffan Gallery for all their support, expertise and of course the cups of tea – it’s a fantastic place to exhibit and a friendly and interesting one to visit, well worth a trip if you’ve never been.

You can also read a beautifully written first review of the show from blogger Steve Smart here »

 

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The art of framing

framing-wall-view Wood nude tree limb view

A confession: I have done no drawing for two whole weeks. I really miss it.

However,  I have been thinking a lot about framing and presentation, which is a necessity right now with a show coming up.  So I thought I’d share a little of the thought and preparation that goes into putting my work on the wall.  I’ve learned a lot since I started exhibiting, some from generous artist colleagues and most from trial and a fair amount of error.

Why do frames matter?

A frame does a number of jobs – it protects the work, especially important for my fairly fragile charcoal drawings, it provides a safe method of transporting and displaying the work and, if you’ve chosen a good one, will make the work look great. It is of course a choice whether to frame or not and I often like to show my large drawings unframed if possible.  I really enjoy seeing other artist’s work unframed, I feel somehow closer to the act of making to be able to see it without glass.  But I also can’t help feeling disappointed when otherwise interesting art works are displayed in unsuitable or just plain bad frames.  Perhaps this is the designer in me getting frustrated with careless presentation, but all the feedback I have had from exhibiting has made me realise that presentation really matters.

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My framing choices

When I mounted my first solo show I did lots of research into framing techniques and quickly realised that ready made frames would not suit my work – there needs to be a decent gap between the glass and the surface of the work for dry media, which means a deep frame and careful handling is needed.  I also felt that quality was very important – there’s no point putting your heart and soul into a drawing only to plonk it thoughlessly into a flimsy Ikea frame.  I love Ikea for other things incidentally, just not for my frames!

I also realised that I was not destined to be a DIY framer – this was a job best left to the experts.  After trying a few local firms I was lucky enough to find a small but meticulous framing company and have developed a great relationship over the years.  Trust is very important in this exchange, since many months work is handed over to them and much effort and expense is involved.  Edinburgh based Linda Park is primarily a painter, but is also very busy with her framing clients.  She has a painter’s eye for what will complement the works and takes great care in handling it.

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I’ve discovered that there are complex and subtle choices to be made.  Which of the twenty-four shades of white would I like for the mountboard?  How many millimetres depth do I desire for the frame?  Which delicate shade of grey for the hand finishing?  How do I want to balance each side of the border?  See – no wonder I’ve not done any drawing.

So I have a drawer of paint charts and test pieces which I spend a lot of time squinting at, trying to imagine what it would look like and try to keep some consistency with my choices so that the overall effect in an exhibition is harmonious.

Preparing for an exhibition

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Here are my most recent works just collected from the framer.  She’s done a beautiful job as usual and I’m pleased with the new choice of colour for the pale hand painted ones – I think this works well with the predominantly white background of the work.  I now have to get them ready for hanging in the Meffan Gallery, which means mirror plating them.  I also sign, date and title them on the back and add my contact details.

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I worked out that it is much easier to pre-paint the mirror plates white, then attach them, rather than paint them after they’ve been hung.  No more going round with a tiny paintbrush before a private view, more time to do your hair or sample the wine or whatever. I position the mirror plates exactly halfway down the sides of the frame which makes for quicker and more consistent hanging, and for ease of transport I reverse them so they don’t damage other works.

There are thirty four works in the next show, ‘Time around trees’, so it took me a while to prepare, wrap and label them all, but I know that the better my preparation is, the more time I’ll have during the hanging to get things just as I want them.  And that’s the fun part.

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‘Time around trees’ opens at the Meffan Gallery, Forfar on Saturday 4th October and runs until Saturday 1st November.

 

 

 

 

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The hazards of drawing outdoors

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It sounds idyllic €“ €œI€™m going out to the woods to draw today€ and the truth is that it really is, it€™s a very special thing to do.  If I didn€™t have those days alone with the trees there would be no art, since the place, the atmosphere, the wildlife, the weather all contribute to the eventual response I make on paper.  The sound of the buzzards above, a deer looking startled as it almost bumps into me, a crow flying out of a hole in an old oak at eye level, a strong breeze making the dead wood creak over my head, the intermittent rustle of a toad hopping through the grass €“ all these form part of the experience for me.

However, drawing outdoors can have its little excitements and challenges too.  There are the predictable things like rain and wind, cold and midges. And the bugs that insist on walking on my drawing and sometimes refuse to leave, sadly getting squashed as I roll it up.  Nettles can make summer drawing unpleasant. High winds mean dangerous conditions underneath old trees and I€™m cautious on those kind of days.

On my last outdoor drawing trip I encountered some very inquisitive cattle which threatened my carefully selected drawing spot.  It seems quite funny to think of a grown woman escaping from cows, but they can do you some serious damage, especially if they have their calves to protect.

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I€™d set out to do a full 360 drawing of one of the hugely impressive Dalkeith oaks, which will be on show at €˜Time around trees€™ at the Meffan Gallery soon.  I€™d come prepared with little tent peg flags to mark my eight viewpoints, a tarp to sit on, my board, and a three and a half metre scroll of my favourite Canson paper.  This was going to take most of the day so I took my time deciding on views, thinking about the movement of the sun through the day and doing the initial sketches.  Four drawings in and I was happy with my progress until I noticed the herd moving towards me. The calves were at the €˜bolshy teenager€™ stage of their lives and clearly up for some mischief, so I rolled up the drawing carefully, packed my bag and climbed over the fence. 

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They had a good look round the tree and over at me, then settled in for some leisurely grazing, so I went for a walk and eventually tagged along with a group being given a tour by the woodland manager.  After a pleasant break I returned to my now deserted tree and resumed the big drawing.

An hour or so later they were back to play, but this time moved much faster and more determinedly so I only had time to get the drawing and pencils to safety and had to leave the tarp and board.  

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You€™re supposed to put your arms out wide and shout to keep them away but they weren€™t having any of that €“ no amount of arm waving was going to put them off their fun. The youngsters had a great time tossing the tarp around and slobbering all over my board, while their mothers rubbed themselves against the tree and had a good sniff around.  I realised from the other side of the fence that I was witnessing an age old scene of traditional wood pasture, and wondered how many woodsmen had been held up from their work by marauding cattle in the past!

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I ended up hiding behind a holly until they got bored and moved on.  Ok, I know it’s hardly Olly Suzi and wild dogs, but my tent peg flags were soggy and trampled and my board and tarp unpleasantly slimy. Still, I was happy that my drawing remained intact and I managed to finish all eight views with the occasional glance over my shoulder to check I was alone.  I took my longest ever drawing back to the studio, cleaned off the bug bodies and trimmed it ready for the Meffan show next month.  I’m hoping to be able to hang it so it kind of envelops you as you view it – so I hope you can come and see it for yourself now you know its story.

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Time around trees at the Meffan

Dalkeith reaching oak Fresh off the board

The studio is very dusty, which means I am very happy because I’ve been busy over the summer drawing for my next show. “Time around trees” opens at the Meffan Gallery on Saturday 4th October and runs until the 1st November.

The space at the Forfar gallery is a great size and very flexible so I’ll be showing a fair bit of new work – I’ve taken to exhibition planning in 3 dimensions to help me decide what should go in.

Here’s a few images of the new work to hopefully tempt you to visit in person!

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