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.
Autumn in Calder wood, it's all about leaves...
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:
It’s always a pleasure to share my enthusiasm for drawing with like-minded people but for last Saturday’s “Drawing in the trees’ workshop that pleasure was doubled by having my poetic collaborator Steve Smart along with me at Howden Park Centre. Nine delightful tree-loving folk braved some foul weather to come and find out more about drawing, trees and charcoal, and were also treated to a first hearing of some of Steve’s poems.
I’ll be writing more about how we’re working together in another post but in the meantime I highly recommend you head to his blog for a treat for your ears. What’s emerged for me so far is that we share the same interest in trees, woodland and landscape, which inspire us to create in our chosen mediums – he writes about the things I draw, I make drawings about the themes he writes about. I’m loving having that extra dimension to feed into my creative process.
So on Saturday we all worked intensely for the three hours and I suspect I tried to fit too much in – a common mistake of mine – there’s just so much to do!! Steve’s readings provided a welcome little oasis of reflection and he also managed to take some great photos of participants concentrating hard on their work, which he’s kindly let me share here.
Thanks to everyone who came along for being a great group prepared to get stuck right in – which makes my job so easy and very satisfying. I love seeing the results of a workshop, how each person’s work is so uniquely ‘theirs’ even though they are responding to the same subject, just like the poet and the artist…
Thanks to Steve Smart for the great workshop photos - here's his blog about the day...
Exhibitions take lots of time to plan, many months of work to make, publicity is written way ahead of opening, it’s all on a schedule. My current exhibition was over two years in the planning. Residencies also take time to organise and represent a great opportunity to take new directions. I love planning – I love thinking about the future, imagining what could happen and plotting out what shape that might take.
My studio year planner gives some much-needed structure to an essentially open ended creative process. But it doesn’t matter where you put the coloured dots or how you block in the days you expect to be productive or when you confidently predict an outcome, because sometimes life chucks stuff in the way of your plans, pushes you off your expected course or gets you stuck in a place you don’t want to be.
It’s easy to regard this as a failure – you didn’t do what you said you would, you didn’t follow through on your intentions. You have nothing to show for your time.
However, if what artists do is make in response to their experience of the world, then we should perhaps view it as an opportunity when unexpected events trip us up, rather than a problem. These new experiences are the raw materials for new work, new ways of thinking and responding. Change can be painful as well as positive though and old familiar ways are hard to let go of.
So that’s where I am right now. I’ve been tripped up. I’m not where I planned to be. Life has chucked some difficult stuff in my way but the good news is that I’m an artist so I can use it. Not really sure how yet but I know that’s what needs to happen next.
This is a form of tree is known as a ‘phoenix tree’ – at some time in its life on the Longshaw moors it has blown down but, because some of its root plate remains in contact with the ground, it has continued to grow from its new horizontal position. It’s stable and apparently thriving, just in a new phase of life…
Installation views of "Dialogues with trees' now showing at Howden Park Centre Livingston until 23rd April.
I see my residency at Howden Park Centre as a fantastic opportunity for me to take stock of where my work is now and explore some new possibilities for the future. Looking at the work on the walls gives me a more complete perspective than when it’s dotted around the studio - I can regard it as a body of work rather than as a series of individual pieces. I’m hoping that this will spark a period of experimentation, but I have to trust my subconscious on this as I have no idea right now where it will take me.
Collaboration is a more certain way to stimulate new ideas so I’m delighted that writer and photographer Steve Smart has agreed to work with me over the next few months. I did a fair bit of preparation for the residency earlier this year, principally getting to know Calderwood and learning my way around its variety of landscapes, so it was great to share some of my finds with him on a visit last week and fascinating to see the wood from his perspective. We were also really lucky to have a clear, crisp and frosty day for the visit with gorgeous light.
He will be writing some poems in response to the locations, trees and themes in my work, which he’ll present at the closing event of the Dialogue with trees exhibition. In the meantime, feast your eyes and your ears on his images and poems on his blog…Tags:
In my latest exhibition I present a collection of drawings which are the end products of my dialogues with trees.
Throughout their often very long lives, trees are engaged in a dialogue with their surroundings, with the ground they grow in, the prevailing weather, the other plants, animals and people that live alongside them. There are physical clues in their forms that provide a record of that dialogue.
Similarly, the process of drawing is one of dialogue – it is a record of the interaction between the artist and the subject, the eye and the tree, the hand, the paper and the mark making tool. As John Berger says, a drawing of a tree is not just a tree, but ‘a tree being looked at’. All my work has intense looking at its heart.
The exhibition preview is on Thursday 3rd November, then is open to the public from Friday 4th to Sunday 23rd April 2017.
It was a perfect sunny winter's day today, just wonderful for going out and getting to know the landscape around Beecraigs a little better.
First stop was Cairnpapple Hill, so steeped in significance since prehistoric times - not surprising since it has such a fantastic view from all angles, to the Pentlands, the Ochils, across the water to Fife and further out to Berwick Law, the Perthshire and Lomond mountains and even Arran on the best days.
I'd spotted a row of beeches on satellite photos on the northern boundary of the hill, so went to investigate, finding a sheltered little valley with some small, hardy oaks along with the boundary beeches.
After a good walk round Cairnpapple I headed towards Witch Craig Wood and the Korean War Memorial, where I've been told I'd find an unusual bit of graffiti. After a little hunting I found not one but two carved horses on trees by side of the road.
One looks like a knight of some sort with a sword, perhaps some reference to the Hospitallers of Torphichen? The other is clearly a Clydesdale horse, standing proudly in the carving by B.R. in '78. I wonder what their stories are...
For an artist looking for characterful old trees this doesn't look very promising does it? Clearfelled plantation is in itself a dramatic kind of landscape, but not what I'm hunting for. Gladly we have wonders of the internet like National Library of Scotland's online historical maps and satellite imaging (I've recently discovered that Bing maps are a far better tool than Google) so I had an idea that there might be living remnants of the previous landscape somewhere here at Beecraigs Country Park.
Surrounded by the plantation trees and densely shaded, I found a few old beeches just clinging on along old boundary ditches.
They show up on satellite images as bright green shapes against the dark uniformity of the conifers and checking the shape's location against old maps confirms that they are on a pre-existing boundary.
I tested out my new water soluble graphite sticks while drawing in the rain/sleet - well it is February!
A second visit on a much sunnier day revealed a wonderful line of wiggly beeches along a south facing bank.
This cluster was a real surprise - mountain bikers clearly use this extensively as it's all lumps and bumps, being a former quarry area.
So I found my characters after all, which means I not only have the satisfaction of a successful forage, but so many new trees to get to know through my drawing - expect to meet some of them at Howden Park Centre later this year...