AN IVY BRANCH hugs a tree with fierce love, its arms and legs making us believe it is almost a person. All over this ivy-person's body are painted people: bird-people, plant-people, animal-people, insect-people, fish-people and human-people, reaching out and loving the tree too, in the symbiotic way that forests demand of us all: we would not be here if it were not for trees, holding together the stories of our ecosystems, feeding us, housing us, giving us air to breathe, water to drink and swim in, and holding together with their roots the very earth we call our home. And yet, there is also a crack - threading through the tree into the ivy-person. How long can we hold on? The tree has been cut too, and in its beautiful, now-visible rings, we can read the words: To the great tree-loving fraternity we belong...
I have just finished painting this piece and it is already winging its way to the gallery where it will be on display from tomorrow(!) I was asked to submit a piece to the latest exhibition at Brighton's ONCA gallery (One Network for Conservation & the Arts) which is an artistic celebration of trees. The 100 Project, as it is called, will last for 100 hours, and the aim of the project is that ONCA will create two forests: one in the gallery of 100 tree-related artworks, and one outside in the London Road area of Brighton where they will plant 100 trees! The artworks are all less that 20cm square in size and will all be for sale at £100 - half the sale price going to the artist, and half toward the tree-planting. Artworks are by professional artists as well as local school children and youth groups, and the whole project is in association with the Earth Restoration Service, which seeks to rectify environmental degradation by working with small local communities to enhance the integrity of local ecosystems. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas will be opening the tree-planting event on Saturday, and the special guest at tomorrow night's opening will be a lime tree.
Inspired by this project I agreed to make a piece to go in this art-forest, and had the very piece of wood waiting to be used. This was given to me by someone who thought it reminded them of my work, and for me, the tree-huggingness of its shape begged to be made into a three dimensional painting about tree-love.
I worked fast as the deadline zoomed towards me, and gradually covered the ivy-person with smaller tree-loving people of varying species...
It became quite a thing. It is still very fresh in my creative eye, so I can't really see it now as I know I will in a few weeks, by which time it may be sold! I can see why flat paintings took off! - this was immensely fiddly to achieve, but I nevertheless enjoyed it - a combination of three and two dimensions.
The quote, by the way, is by Henry Ward Beecher, and I found it after completing the painting because I felt it needed words too, and these seemed to sum up what I was trying to say perfectly (although I of course do not exclude any sorority in the Great Tree-Loving!)
May this painting and all its fellow art-forest works go some way to re-entwining all the tree-loving peoples with their great green-armed beloveds.