"Which bits of our aesthetic, or emotional conciousness do rot-holes and calluses touch?"
My work is inspired by trees, their forms, their history and the influence that humans, animals and natural processes have in shaping them: in the way they provide a solid representation of time. It explores their three dimensional forms, investigating the way light hits their surfaces, revealing corporeal contours and chaotic patterns of damage.
My process begins with drawings and photographs made in the field, mostly during the winter and early spring months in low sunlight. These enable me to connect with a tree in its setting, often over many visits. I then review the material at length in the studio to allow an image to emerge. Many viewers of my work wonder if they are looking at wood or flesh and I play on this ambiguity, using the brain’s need to make sense of the unfamiliar. I use random marks and textures in the charcoal when beginning a drawing to provoke this pareidolia, enabling me to suggest on paper the complexity I see in life.
I choose to use charcoal as it enables me to express both subtlety and dramatic contrast with great flexibility as I continually move between light and dark towards the powerful chiaroscuro I strive for. There's also something poetic about depicting living wood with its carbonised self.
I learned a respect and appreciation for wood as a material from my wood turner father and as a maker myself through my design degree. Writers like Roger Deakin, Oliver Rackham and Richard Mabey have taught me how to read a tree’s history and significance through its geographical setting and physical form, and artists such as Henry Moore, Olly Suzi and Julian Cooper have inspired me to move beyond a straightforward portrayal of the subject towards expressing its totemic qualities.
When I visit old trees I am moved by their powerful presence and try to convey this emotional response through the sensual use of my materials. My aim is to make work which also moves the viewer and communicates the depth of my experience.