10 months ago I began a journey with the brief to create ‘artwork in trees’ for Eden Arts, Cumbria. What began as a series of ideas & objects ceremonially hung from branches has stretched to concepts that reflect upon economic and social ‘meta-narratives’ (or the over-arching beliefs that we live our lives by). I’ve been both challenged and delighted, saddened and inspired by the history of the region and it’s innate beauty. I’ve read thousands of words from final reports and first-hand personal accounts surrounding the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001. As well as visiting the final resting place of over 450,000 animals at Watchtree Nature Reserve on more than one occasion.
You may question what this has to do with ‘artwork in trees’?
And so you should as I am neither Cumbrian nor from farming stock. From this standpoint all I can offer is the integrity of my journey and intention to understand what connects us to one other. And my answer is that over the past 15 years of arts practice I’ve consistently explored the spaces, materials and places that others shy away from. Whether that’s the waste created by a global manufacturer focused upon product and profit rather than honoring the planet as an equally important ‘partner’ or my autobiographical experience of death after my mothers passing. My raison d’être? To salvage that which is left behind or discarded, both physically and emotionally, so as to understand it’s significance to our culture. And so I return to the tree within the landscape as my abiding companion upon the journey. Both literal and metaphorical. Its role as the Tree of Life, inextricably linked to both the soil and the sky, the weather and the cycle of the seasons. It’s existence is beholden to continual renewal as are we as human beings. Life, death, renewal.
It is within this crucible that I explore detritus, myth and mortality.
Our sense of connection to one another is mediated through the cultural platforms that disseminate knowledge from newspapers to Tumblr, literature to art work in trees. Mechanisms such as these have the power to profoundly influence both our ecology and our relationships.
"On a primal level, in terms of reflective experience, rites of passage exemplify the narratives that are rightly ‘ours’. They emerge out of our co-existence as animals. Beyond cultural specificity, our births, marriages and deaths symbolise the events we collectively manifest when we commune. These ‘spaces of experience’ are not based upon a neo-liberal system founded upon lack, or an advertising campaign dictated by perceptions of what ‘should be’ but offer a plentiful experience of what binds ‘us’ to one another because of what is." (p30)*
From geographical differences to emotional cartography. From the stories we share to the animals and land we are guardians of.
The first installation to grow from this research is currently installed at the National Trust property, Acorn Bank and is titles ‘Last (Bank) 2013:
And the final work, ‘Watchtree’ (2013) will be installed next week on the banks of Ullswater near to Pooley Bridge. An artists statement providing more information about the work will be posted as soon as install is complete.
* AN EXPLORATION OF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ART-WORK THAT EXEMPLIFIES A PERSONAL RITE-OF-PASSAGE CONCERNING DEATH. By Robyn Woolston (2011)
Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD)