Inspiration comes from many sources and in many forms – these three have influenced the way I see and think about art and how we relate to our environment…
€˜Beechcombings€™ by Richard Mabey
This is a beautifully written exploration of the author€™s and society€™s relationship to trees, the beech in particular. Every time I read it (I€™m on my fifth time) I€™m struck by a new idea, a fascinating fact or a thought provoking quote. It covers our relationship to trees through a variety of historical periods, touching on politics, ecology, aesthetics, art and literature, and includes some honest little snippets of self reflection too. There are lots of scribbles in my copy which I€™ve developed into ideas and themes in my sketchbook and have filtered into all my work.
Here€™s my favourite quote, which I€™ve used in my show €˜Damaged woods€™:
€œwhich bits of our aesthetic, or emotional, consciousness do rot-holes and calluses touch?€
You can find the book here.
€˜Cave of forgotten dreams€™ directed by Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog€™s hypnotic film about the cave art discovered in Chauvet, France, some of it found to be over 30,000 years old! Yes that€™s the right amount of zeros! Mindblowing. The paintings on the cave walls are so vibrant, directly conveying the movement and nature of the individual animals, yet we know virtually nothing about the people who painted them, nor their reasons for doing so. The simplicity and incredible skill of the images are a great reminder to me that I have so much to learn.
Herzog€™s film explores the scientists and researchers studying the cave as well as the actual cave paintings themselves. The restrictions imposed on the filming seem to enhance the other-worldliness of the cave and its contents, and his deadpan commentary contrasts wonderfully with the weirdly comical characters he interviews. It€™s on DVD, but see it in the cinema if you can €“ there€™s a 3D version which I wasn€™t able to view in the little arthouse cinema I went to.
€˜Wildwood€™ by Roger Deakin
I think of this as a €˜core text€™ for the development of my artwork. In the book, Deakin muses on woods and trees in the UK, Australia, Kirgizstan and Poland, recounting his travels and meetings with many others who shared his passion. He had such a rich, intimate relationship to the natural environment and creatures surrounding him, and a beautiful way of putting this across in his writing. It€™s deeply poetic, personal, knowledgeable and subversive. There€™s also a melancholy to it, perhaps because you read it knowing that he died before it was published. One day I€™d like to escape for a while to a wee shepherd€™s hut like his (see Caught by the river blog), with some sketchbooks, maybe some whisky and my tatty copy of his last book.