Fellow artist Anne Gilchrist and I worked together for the first time during the Grown Together exhibition at St Margaret’s House, though we have long shared a fascination with Dalkeith Old Oaks and have both made work there for many years.
The site sits within Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian and is bounded by the North and South Esk rivers. The oakwood is grazed by cattle and managed as park woodland by Buccleuch Estates.
During the spring of 2018 we walked, talked and drew our way around the oaks, discovering shared favourites and introducing each other to their unique perspectives. At that time, the contrast between the copious dead and decaying wood and the vibrant green of the emerging new leaves was striking - two points on the complex cycle of woodland life.
We decided to collaborate on a collection of ‘things’ to present at the European Wood Pastures: Past, Present & Future conference, 5-7 September 2018 Sheffield, run by UKEconet which I worked with on ‘Tree Stories’.
Along with original artworks we’ll be presenting this new book, which brings together a selection of our art, photographs and writing made in response to the oakwood. Though we produce quite different work, we share a great deal in the way our art has developed as a kind of conversation with the trees. In the process of making this book and on our walks through the woodland, Anne has taught me to look down as well as gaze up, to notice the small and fleeting wonders of the habitat as well as the monumental aged oaks.
The book is available to preview and order here »
I am curating Grown together for St Margaret's House this autumn and it's been such a pleasure to work with artists from different disciplines who share my passion for trees. Here's a flavour of their work, and the exhbition details can be found here>
Anne Gilchrist has a deep connection to trees:
"My work has evolved within the woodlands of Midlothian, Perthshire and Argyll. Out of a lifetime’s love and fascination for the natural world and through long term acquaintance and observations, my work has gradually become more about the woodland, and – I hope – less about myself, or the human world."
Anne will be showing paintings, sculpture and installation
Charlotte Eva Bryan
Charlotte Eva Bryan is a Glasgow based Artist and Art Therapist with a background in Painting and Printmaking.
She will be showing a drawing of the famous Pollok Beech.
"I have returned to observational drawing in an attempt to preserve the memory of a much-loved local tree which was recently attacked by vandals and set on fire. By drawing the remains of the tree, I intend to reflect on resilience and healing, while processing the attack and working with others in order to help keep the Pollok Beech’s legacy alive. "
Chris Dooks is an Edinburgh based multimedia artist with a large portfolio of publicly engaged work, in what could be described as a ‘medical humanities art practice’.
"Although I have a fairly eclectic style I am niche in one aspect of everything I do - it is usually a response to creative problem solving of restrained opportunities."
Chris will be showing his film 'Gardening as astronomy' from Tiny Geographies.
Originally from Fife, Alan Kay is a painter based in St. Margaret’s House.
“Trees seem to pepper landscapes but are often seen as secondary. Recently, I have started to paint trees and I have tried to capture the idea of trees in the foreground obscuring the wide expanse of background. It is about looking through things to get beyond - a bit like living in the future and not recognising and dealing with what is immediately in front of us.”
Alan will be showing some of his recent paintings.
Teresa Hunyadi is an Austrian sculptor living and working in Edinburgh, with a studio at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.
“Trees mean lots of different things to me. Mainly they mean growth and adaption. Regarding my work they are a very substantial resource as well as a “friend”. Every interest in timber starts for me with the tree and its environment.”
Teresa will be showing a series of her recent sculptures in wood.
Originally from San Jose, California Adele now lives in Edinburgh and has a studio at St Margaret’s House.
“As a child I was lucky to have grown up with two large backyard trees and a small creek with woodland nearby. Trees were my upstairs playrooms. The twists and turns of their branches were like the stairs in a cosy two-story home. A few years on I would be camping with friends and gaze up at the ring of trees above our heads. No matter what spot you chose, you'd see this circle of guardians and somehow knew to be on good behaviour.”
Adele will be showing some of her pencil drawings of wooded areas around Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Kenris MacLeod is an Edinburgh based textile artist. She uses freemotion machine embroidery to describe the textures and complexity of the natural world – specifically trees and woodland.
“Using the sewing machine needle as a pencil or brush, I sew complex designs that combine repetitive forms and abstract shapes with elemental natural imagery. My work seeks to connect us to our ancient roots, tapping into a memory that is almost, but not quite, lost. Sometimes I think I should widen my remit and leave trees behind for a bit but it feels impossible when they are such a constant source of amazement and fascination to me.”
Steve grew up in Edinburgh, but for a long time lived in rural areas, now living just outside Dundee. Amongst other things on his fifty-seven year trip he has been a photographer, a designer, a technologist, an animator, a hill walker, but always a person who makes.
“Trees can be very big, some of them are very old. Their character and way of life is complex, in many ways hidden, and very different from our own. They can make us pause, and they can make us gasp. I’ve had a fascination with the forms and shapes of trees, and a joy in walking in woods for longer than I can say.”
Steve will be showing his new multimedia work ‘Drawing Breath’.
Painter and printmaker Rona MacLean grew up on Loch Lomond side and is now based in Edinburgh, with a studio at St Margaret’s House.
“Having grown up in the countryside trees have always been part of my childhood memories. Now they provide me with an enduring focus for my work. Their majestic silhouettes and structure, particularly in winter, are very compelling and a gift to a printmaker. A tree without its summer plumage never fails to intrigue me.”
Rona’s screenprints will be on show in the exhibition.
Katherine Sola grew up surrounded by ancient forests in Eastern Europe. She now works in ceramics, painting and drawing from her St Margaret’s House studio.
“Woodland fed us, and woodland gave us shelter. We have very strong respect for each tree and we see them as a living individual, not just a tree. In Slavic folk Culture we celebrate woodlands, forests and each individual tree. It is our way of life.”
Katherine will be showing new ceramic works.
Aliisa Hyslop is a Finnish/Scottish artist, living and working in Edinburgh and the Scottish borders, making paintings and sculptures.
“In the woods, through the woods, out of the woods - the symbolic nature of trees in our lives is a theme I have instinctively been following. My mother was Finnish and perhaps because of that, I feel a natural affinity with trees and forests.”
Aliisa will be showing paintings, drawings and sculpture.
Isabell Buenz taught photography and expressive arts in Germany and Scotland, then established herself as an artist focusing on using paper and discarded books. She has a studio in St. Margaret’s House.
“I have always been connected to trees and woods in the shape of paper, the material of choice since I was a young child. I grew up in a family where big pieces of paper were always available. My father worked for the local newspaper supplying me with seemingly endless amounts of paper. I started building with newsprint, creating useful items, such as bags, bowls and picture frames. As an adult I learnt to make my own paper, using fungi growing on tree trunks and other natural materials collected during forest walks.”
Isabell will be showing a series of new works in paper.
Aileen Grant draws, paints and makes prints at her home in Lochcarron, Wester Ross and at her St Margaret’s House studio.
“I like to celebrate trees as they are so important to us as absorbers of carbon in the efforts to combat climate change. Up here in Wester Ross the climate is a bit harsher for trees and there are not so many around. This rarity is another reason to cherish trees.”
Aileen will be showing some of her photopolymer gravure prints.
Originally from Spain, glass artist David Mola works in stained and bespoke kiln glass from his St Margaret’s House studio.
“Trees and woodland are places of inspiration for me. There is something magical about trees, and in the way they grow, slowly, long lived... they are the best example of continuous movement, almost invisible but also unstoppable.”
David will be showing his sculptural works from the Kelburn Never-ending Glen.
Wildchild Designs (Robin Wood)
Robin Wood is the founder Wildchild Designs, dedicated to creating exciting outdoor play structures, seating, sculpture and adventure trails.
“I've always been outdoors with my first happy memories in Suffolk where we lived by a huge woodland and the river Orwell: even then at the tender age of 7 I was allowed to play all day well away from our home and explore. I’m passionate about getting people out into the real world of nature, and my business encourages children of all ages to explore and re-discover the joys and freedom of outdoor play.”
Robin will be showing a series of illustrations for his Glingbobs and Tootflits sculpture trails.
Lynn Ahrens is a painter based at St Margaret’s House.
“For me, woodland and forest landscape played an important role in developing an approach to imagery based on memory and imagination. The experiences which were particularly stimulating occurred during lengthy periods of working in fields close to or bordered by woods and forests and of course the surrounding landscape, sounds and sights of the creatures inhabiting them.”
Lynn will be showing some of his oil and gouache paintings.
Full Grown (Gavin Munro)
Full Grown founder Gavin Munro, lives and works in Derbyshire, where he and the team tend the furniture field.
“Central to the original idea, and therefore to the ethos of the company, is a recognition that, somewhere along the line, the human race’s relationship with nature broke down, and the efforts of Full Grown are an opportunity to redefine this relationship in a mutually beneficial collaboration with nature.”
The exhibition will feature some of Full Grown’s furniture and design illustrations.
Tansy Lee Moir
Tansy Lee Moir has been drawing trees for almost 10 years and is curating ‘Grown Together’ for St Margaret’s House. Originally from Derbyshire, she is now based just outside Edinburgh.
“My dialogues with trees always begin with walking, investigating areas of ancient woodland and historic land use, poring over old maps and new satellite imagery. My trips to these landscapes are partly aimless wanderings, partly focused foraging and I’m always on the lookout for the special trees which have a story to tell, in their contorted forms, broken branches or undecipherable graffiti.”
Tansy will be showing some of her recent charcoal drawings and works from the ‘Tree Stories’ project.
This exhibition brings together 18 artists, makers, poets and designers whose work is intimately connected with trees and woodland.
Though their works span a wide variety of media they are all united by a strong affinity with woodland; as a place to observe and connect with nature, as a rich source of metaphor, as a place for reflection and healing, as a link to distant myths and inspiration for new writing, as a sustainable resource to work with. For some, trees are their singular subject or their raw materials, for others they represent a starting point for their imagination.
Timed to coincide with the launch of the new national Tree Charter, ‘Grown together’ seeks to highlight the relationship between artists and trees and remind us of the reasons we should value and protect them. By considering trees in new ways, we can learn much about ourselves.
‘To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed. It is where you travel to find yourself, often, paradoxically, by getting lost.’ Roger Deakin, Wildwood 2007
Lynn Ahrens Charlotte Bryan Isabell Buenz Chris Dooks Anne Gilchrist Aileen Grant Adele Gregory Full Grown Teresa Hunyadi Aliisa Hyslop Alan Kay Rona Maclean Kenris McLeod Tansy Lee Moir David Mola Steve Smart Katherine Sola Robin Wood
Exhibition opening event 1-4pm Saturday 11th November.
Exhibition open daily 11am – 6pm until Sunday 26th November.
Events during the exhibition run - to be confirmed.Tags:
"To draw is to look, examining the structure
of appearances - a drawing of a tree shows not
a tree, but a tree being looked at."
My approach to drawing is all about looking intently at my subject: the starting point for all my artwork is a meeting with a tree and a dialogue with it through mark-making. So when I was invited to take part in this year’s Kelburn Garden Party it seemed like a great opportunity to start that dialogue with some of their amazing trees.
For the duration of the festival I plan to be working around the estate and Glen, creating a collection of drawings on the theme of ‘A tree being looked at’. If you’re at the Garden Party over the weekend, you can find me in the afternoons under the Weeping Larch in the area known as ‘The Gardens’ where I’ll also be doing short drawing workshops.
If you feel like a wander through the Neverending Glen, you can also discover and use the viewfinders I’ve placed along the way. These have quotes on them which relate to my ‘tree being looked at’ theme, and all are from books, artists and writers who have been inspiring and eye-opening for me and my work which I really wanted to share. I’ve hung the viewfinders so that they can be handled and used to frame your own views of the natural world – it’s all about looking!
Here are the quotes and their sources, with links...
“To draw a tree, to pay such close attention to every aspect of a tree is an act of reverence not only toward the tree, but also to our human connection to it. It gives us almost visionary moments of connectedness.”
Alan Lee from Drawing Projects, Mick Maslen & Jack Southern
“We see our world through the kind of questions we are able to ask about it, and by asking ‘more interesting questions’, we will discover more interesting ways of seeing it.”
Drawing Projects, Mick Maslen & Jack Southern
“One must always draw. Draw with the eyes when one cannot draw with a pencil.”
“Woods have come to look like the subconscious of the landscape”
“To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed. It is where you travel to find yourself, often, paradoxically, by getting lost.”
Wildwood, Roger Deakin
“I have learnt that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start to draw an ordinary thing, I realise how extraordinary it is.”
The Zen of Seeing: Seeing drawing as meditation, Frederick Franck
“Which bits of our aesthetic or emotional consciousness do rot-holes and calluses touch?”
“What deep-rooted associations do old trees conjure up? Are they some kind of portal to understanding the deep relationship between wildness and time? “
Beechcombings, Richard Mabey
“It is motionless yet it oozes energy.”
Henry Moore at the British Museum, Henry Moore
“To walk through an ancient wood is to tread in the footsteps of the ghosts of those who once lived and worked in the medieval and early industrial countryside.“
Ancient Woodland: History, Industry and Crafts, Ian D. Rotherham
“...trees are wildlife just as deer or primroses are wildlife. Each species has its own agenda and its own interactions with human activities.”
Woodlands, Oliver Rackham
“I found the poems in the fields,
And only wrote them down.”
‘Sighing for Retirement’, John Clare
“Our habitual vision of things is not necessarily right: it is only one of an infinite number.”
The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd
I'll be posting more news and photos from the weekend on my facebook page whenever I can get a signal, so you can follow my progress there.
This weekend I'm heading west to the wonderful Kelburn Garden Party where I'm doing a mini residency entitled 'A tree being looked at', involving drawing some of the amazing trees on the estate and running some drawing workshops for festival goers.
There will be another blog post soon with more details about my work there and you can find all the information on the artists and contributors to the Glen experience here>
Well this is a first for me – I have work currently on show in three different parts of the country...
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.
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.
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 “a 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.
Street art by Phlegm
I was back in Sheffield last weekend, to get together with my Tree Stories colleagues, to view potential exhibition space and discuss what we’ll be making for the project.
We met at the Workstation, a 1930s built former car showroom and garage which now houses lots of creative businesses. This whole area of the city, known as the Cultural Industries Quarter has a vibrant, creative feel, with a huge variety of street art, artist studios, silversmiths and metal workers and the lovely Showroom cinema.
The Tree Stories website is starting to take shape and we’re keen for people to send in their own Tree Story images. There’s also a new facebook page which will mean we can gather images and stories there too.
The following day, despite the soupy weather and the dimmest of light, I went out to Ecclesall Woods to immerse myself in the stories and atmosphere of this Ancient Woodland site.
Its history goes back many centuries – there are prehistoric carvings, Romano British remains and ancient field boundaries, as well as charcoal pits, trackways and even a Wood Collier’s grave from its more recent industrial past.
There are already quite a few photographs from Ecclesall on the Tree Stories website, so I went in search of some of those known but hoping also to discover some of its history myself. I wandered through the mist towards an area of big beeches which shows up clearly on Google Earth, since these are a favourite place for people to make their mark.
Although the damp and dingy weather made my photographs quite poor (I didn’t have a tripod with me so apologies for the blur!), it did mean that the trees were dark and glossy from the rain, which dramatically highlighted their forms.
Once I’d ‘got my eye in’ I found that almost every large beech I looked at had markings of some sort – many very distorted and indistinct, some letters clearly legible, some obviously old and some very new. I found a strong sense of place here, with recently made dens and graffiti layered over older carvings and even older charcoal pits and chunks of gritstone.
The idea of marking trees as a way of attaching yourself to a special place came to mind – the organically created paths, smoothed stones and modified trees all combined to give a sense of belonging, that this was a territory that generations of people had felt part of.
I came back to the studio with a good store of new material and ideas for the series of drawings I’ll be making for the exhibition – here’s a sketchbook snapshot of some of them...
Many eminent people have marked the recent passing of Oliver Rackham, widely regarded as the country’s foremost academic and writer on the interrelated subjects of trees, woodlands, landscape and history – Professor Ian D Rotherham’s blog and the Woodland Trust do it very well.
For me, Oliver Rackham’s books (and his wonderful illustrations as pictured above) were an eye-opening introduction to a new way of looking at my subject. After reading his work, an interesting tree was no longer just interesting for its form, its texture, its colour: it was something that could be read almost as a historical document. The tree’s physical properties were not just a result of its own nature, but were intimately linked to its environment and the people who interacted with it over its lifetime.
That concept of dialogue between tree, human and place has been crucial to the development of my creative process, and I have Oliver Rackham to thank for that.
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 »
Have you ever come across interesting tree carvings and graffiti? Have you wondered who made it, when and why? We want your 'Tree Stories' - your photos and your local knowledge.
The 'Tree Stories' project was launched at the end of October with a community workshop, where we walked around Graves Park in Sheffield to find some examples of carvings, then made our own 'stories' with relief prints and salt dough plaques. We were also helped by poet and songwriter Sally Goldsmith to craft our own stories from the perspective of the tree itself.
Academic Ian Rotherham guided our walk in Graves Park and gave us some historical and cultural background for 'marked trees'.
Sally read out some of the stories we had constructed while the prints dried on the wall.
Graves Park has been a popular public beauty spot for very many years and the evidence is written on the trees there.
If you have seen any interesting carvings on trees, please send photos and details of where and when to Christine Handley at firstname.lastname@example.org. These will be shared on the project website - there are a couple of my photos there already but we hope to collect many more, from the Sheffield/North Derbyshire area and further afield too.
So don't be shy - share your tree stories...Tags: