With regards to arboreal photographers, I keep returning to Sally Mann’s works who I contextualised here. Whenever I see her work I am ensnared by the dark imagination portrayed in these images. Especially this image which I likened to a sinister game of hide and seek, the feeling of hiding under a dark blanket and it suddenly being whisked away. I can see the tree portrayed as a sinister creature, a direct representation of human anatomy. To see it purely as a tree I have to focus so hard almost like I’m looking at an optical illusion and suddenly I can see the tree. Sally Man turns imagination into reality and reality into an illusion. Contextualisation
The way I’m viewing these images personify the trees and the more I think about this I do see them as living beings, not just in a scientific and biological sense, but as spiritual beings, living forces that speak in their only language. I wonder do they feel pain, it is perhaps ignorant to hope that they do not when you think of the massacre of trees going on around this planet. How different would things be if the trees could talk? This feels like it’s leading me in the direction of a new project or assignment, ‘If the Trees could Talk.’
In regards to the personification of the woodland and the trees, what rules state that the personification has to end there? I was given the heads up by a fellow student who introduced me to David Nash’s arboreal art. I admired his carvings and wondered how I could incorporate them into my studies. I was pondering whether to continue investigating, then I noticed a specific art exhibit, the Wooden Boulder. Decades ago a 200-year-old oak tree met its end in the grips of a violent Winter storm, ending its legacy. Yet this wasn’t quite true, the vessel of the tree may have ended but its spirit had another story to tell. David Nash managed to gain permission to create from it a giant oak sphere which he planned to take to his studio. The only problem was the boulder was too large to move so he allowed nature to transport it, down the River Dwyry (in the Welsh town of Blaenau Ffestiniog) the boulder immediately became wedged between rocks and Nash was forced to wait six months until a sudden flood of rainwater shunted it into a pool. A year went by and the wooden boulder stayed in the pool, “There was a wild plum tree next to the boulder, so in the spring it was covered in little white petals. It was lovely.” It was round about then when Nash realised what was being created, a new story, a live exhibit, this wooden boulder was not pinned down in any stark gallery as a piece of modern art, it didn’t need to challenge (or confuse) the perception of fine art lovers; the boulder was the story! It wasn’t tied down by conventions of art, the wooden boulder was a living art piece in wild and living surroundings writing its own extraordinary story. It is never about the road, but the journey.
Over the next 35 years, David Nash has followed the Wooden Boulders painting, photographing and documenting its story, even giving it a voice.
‘The Boulder told me: if you take me back to the studio I’ll dry out and I’ll crack. The story will be over’ David Nash.
Its beauty comes in that the boulder has no boundaries, it could be anywhere right now, it may have needed a guiding hand at times to rescue it when it was trapped on private land or caught underneath a bridge. It may have been inanimate but its story brought it to life. I find it fascinating how whilst David Nash created the wooden boulder as a piece of art and set it free on the river to unleash its story, the true artist is the boulder itself. You don’t even need to be a person like myself with a wild imagination and able to believe that everything in inanimate has a voice, the Boulder created its own personal voice, it told a story and journeyed on an incredible venture.
To my surprise, the wooden boulder was last seen close to where I was on holiday in Wales recently. I will be returning there this year and would love to follow the journey of the boulder, and perhaps even see it myself, though it hasn’t been for such time. It’s only a shame that it won’t be in time for the second Assignment as that would have been a fascinating representation of a journey, a journey in a physical sense, a journey of discovery and a journey of art.