Arboretum- The art of trees; Arborealists and other artists at The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (viewed on 3/3/15).
This exhibition is an exploration of the art of the tree from multiple viewpoints through the work of 30 contemporary artists who address this theme in their work. I was particularly interested to see this exhibition in relation to my own work that explores this theme, with the Willow tree. I was keen to see how other contemporary artists are making work about ‘the tree’. It was great to see Julian Perry’s large painting, ‘Three pollards’, which draws attention to mans relationship with trees and portrays experimental forestry work that reprises the practice of pollarding, which ended with the coding of the forest as a public space in 1878. Many of the works in the exhibition were in the form of a landscape, in varying styles.
The work of Fiona Hingston, ‘Biddlecombe’ (earth, charcoal on paper mounted on thin plywood), caught my attention for both her subject and the use of materials. There are two panels of a meticulously observed view looking through a dense tangle of branches. Her muted forest tapestry has then been dragged from the earth, quite literally, in earth and charcoal. She prepares the boards with layers of paper, soil and charcoal which she then cuts and scraps back into to reveal her composition. In my experimentations I have worked with soil and charcoal, and having made my own charcoal am keen to use it in my works, so interesting to see this work. There is something about these materials that give the work a very grounded feeling, making that links in a physical way. I also enjoyed the small collections of found objects exhibited alongside the work and the twigs next to a copy of ‘A lecture on tree twigs by John Ruskin 1861’.
Anthony Whishaw’s ‘CoppiceIII triptych’ (above) interested me because it reminded me of some of the works of the artist, JohnWolseley, who I came across in Roger Deakons book, ‘Wildwood’. Wolseley would use natural materials on his canvas, flood them with watercolour, and allow them to dry leaving marks of their physical presence. Whishaw’s abstract works gave me the impression that he may have done something similar to achieve some of the marks on the canvas. There was also something in the work, the muted colours and dark tones, which hinted towards a kind of sombre mood
There were some other works made using charcoal, but much more traditional approach- a gestural drawing and a very tight landscape with trees.