Trees and art….

a calming source of inspiration….

Emily Carr | Happiness 1939

Here at Artspring Gallery we are frequently inspired by themes from nature. Spending time in the natural world provides calm and respite from the daily routine. Walking in nature is a meditative process for many, and has been shown to improve wellbeing.

Trees are one of the commonest themes found in Artspring Gallery. So today, while galleries across the country are closed, I will explore a few tree related artworks and videos to offer some moments of quiet and inspiration.

Van Gogh | Branches with almond blossom 1890

Virtual exhibitions….

One of the shows currently on in london that I was due to visit is ‘Among the Trees’ at the Hayward Gallery.

It has had mixed reviews, but there are some fascinating works, including a dense cardboard thicket, and two ‘trees’ carved from an enormous wooden beam.

Both are shown in the virtual tour below.

Among the trees at the Hayward Gallery

David Nash’s recent exhibition ‘200 seasons’ at Towner Eastbourne was a celebration of trees, both alive and dead.

Nash points out that ‘wood’ is the product that we have when a tree has died…. and yet we talk of ‘walking in the woods’…..

David Nash | wood sculpture

I found the videos about his living sculpture ‘Ash Dome’, planted in 1977 at his Welsh home, particularly beautiful. The sculpture is not intended for public viewing, and sadly is suffering from Ash Dieback disease.

David Nash’s Ash Dome

If you would like to find out more about David Nash’s work then this interview is well worth a watch.

So what are the trees that inspire us most as artists?

The mighty oak

The mighty oak features large in the gallery. There is something about its stature and shape that appeals, as is so elegantly displayed in this etching by Claire Longley.

Claire Longley | Majesty Oak | etching with watercolour

Oak trees were originally planted in large numbers to support ship building industries. How lucky we are that many survive.

Mark Welland‘s photographic work includes an ongoing project around a single oak tree. Now fallen, the oak is represented with multiple layers and colour palettes, painstakingly embedded in resin.

Mark Welland | Rising sun | photograph with tin leaf in resin

Caroline Fraser recently spent time on a residency in Wales, where she discovered the ancient oak forest of Ty Canol.

Using multiple exposure and post-capture manipulation Caroline has tried to represent the powerful forces of nature’s elements on a wild Welsh moorland.

Caroline Fraser | Coed ty canol 2 | limited edition photograph

Also drawn to the woods for inspiration is artist Ruth McDonald.

A walk in the woods

Here is a work entitled ‘Walk in the woods’. There is so much to enjoy about the randomness and disorder of nature when out in the woods. A welcome relief from the tidyness and order of suburband and city landscapes. A place for the mind to unwind and recharge.

Ruth McDonald | Walk in the woods| screenprint

The sinuous shapes of trunks and branch make for an great abstract design on Anne McArdle’s enamel creations.

Anne McArdle | Autumn tree beaker | ceramic

I could go on…. but you probably have better things to do

Like go for a walk and talk to some trees….

Kustav Klimt | Beech Forest 1902

I will leave you with words by one of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver 1935-2019

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”


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