Edition #13 – Trees
An Introduction from Matt Witt
This month, we gathered with the trees to embark on an epic exploration into the depths of their mysterious wooded groves. Over 2 parts, including 44 artists, we venture into their land, drawn by the light of the sun dancing through their branches.
We admire their long shadows in winter, their dancing leaves in the summer, we obsess at the asymmetry and their symmetry. We dive into their souls, their spirits and their inner circles. We marvel at their ever steady presence and admire them for their persistence. We contemplate a world perfected for our living by the trees and we wonder about a world without trees and where that leaves us.
I appreciate the focus this month has brought, the opportunity to spend time in nature and to learn. I am recognising the importance of sharing, the things we can pass to and from each other by inviting open exchange. Wake up screaming is providing a platform, not only for new artists and work but for old work and projects that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. Projects like The collected tree photo archives, work that has just as much to say, perhaps more, than new work. I am excited to provide a space for articles such as this, real insights into real lives, and like wine, humans and art seem to grow finer and further depth with age.
I am especially taken by the popularity of Wake up screaming with the older demographic, perhaps they are the only ones with time to read it! I proudly display the work of these artists; much like trees, they can be a disregarded section of the planets population. Apart from the personal study that WUS allows me, it is the readers and their creative contributions that nourish the most, providing new avenues for investigation with each submission. I am eagerly taking the opportunity to listen and learn from the contributors to Wake up screaming, young and old. By sharing our inner experiences and insights via creative means, we open up a window with a view to our inner world, through which others can look and learn.
During the last week, I was sat in the orchard on an old log that had been cut cleanly to show the rings within its trunk. Each ring represents a year of the trees life, some rings are wide and signify a good year, other are narrower and signify a year when growth was hampered by the environment in some way. I started thinking, where do our rings hide? We undergo a similar yearly process, seasonal change, emotional, physical and psychic ups and downs, but we can’t take a cross section of our trunk to check our rings. It feels like something similar should exist somewhere, it’s probably something untouchable and unthinkable that’s a diary of our psychic or spiritual growth sitting somewhere in the ether. Like us, tress can’t see their own rings, the record of their life is never revealed to them, they grow on, oblivious. The following day I was contacted by an artist who created a life size cross section of a Giant Redwood, meticulously painting its rings, she talks about the tree’s rings in her article: Sharon Levy – Cookies.
Simply taking the time to learn about and identifying trees has nourished my experience, I walk the same lanes as I used to, but now they sing with a chorus of names, shouting gleefully as I walk by. The trees also provide an avenue of reconnection with my family who are all gardeners and nature lovers at heart. My Dad is a fountain of knowledge on plants and trees and I hope in his retirement we are able to explore these things and allow him to extract some of this knowledge into the public domain.
“It’s a shame that a large percentage of the population walk by plants and trees every day without having a clue what they are. It’s nice to learn about the countryside and appreciate it a little more.” – Duncan Witt
On an individual level we seem to have a deep relationship with trees. Many of the contributing artists talk about the friendly, familial feeling they experience from trees, but this is an isolated island of people, artists, forward thinkers, nature lovers, it is not the general population. On a collective level, sadly we are not living up to the sort of sentiments we have presented in this edition. In the clear light of day, humanity does not treat trees well.
I can’t offer a solution, or an explanation of the problem, I can only offer myself up as a legged tree, an allie of the standing ones. Through projects like this, gathering creatives to shine a light into the darkest corners of the forest, we aid in bringing people’s attention to the things that are meaningful, encouraging humanity slowly away from the expedient.
I foster a hope that slowly we are coming to terms with our fragility, our reliance on the trees for the very air we breathe. I hope we are beginning to recognise the well of inspiration and insight that these magnificent beings can provide to us, if we just take the time to stop and listen. The plant world is our medicine cupboard, our encyclopaedia, trees are therapists. Nature is our instruction manual for living.
In this edition we travel all over the world, meeting people and trees from the farthest reaches of the planet. We travel to a dense Oak Forest with Glastonbury artist Melanie Brear. We are visited by a Tree Bard, we meet a guy who created a machine that allows trees to draw, we read heartfelt article about an attempt to save a maple from the bulldozers. We meet the Yew Shaman, we embark on traditional Celtic tree interactions, visit the Ogham and meditatate with the Yew.We venture into Nigerian, Yoruba mythology and culture. We journey all over North America, from Portland, to meet a guy who created his own camera lenses to photograph trees, to Ottawa to meet an artist who paints wonderful impressionist trees. We take a trip to Australia to meet an acacia, we visit an archive of trees from the 80s and 90s, and say hello to a Great Magnolia as the focal point of a childhood. We learn the Japanese for “light filtering through the leaves of trees” and we visit the poplars in The Netherlands. We jump from a Maple in Hornsey to elms in Bedford, from a willow in Toronto to a Giant Redwood in California, to an old Oak tree in Kent, that no longer stands.
In the middle of this forest of trees, stand the humans, people, artists, next to their trees, interacting, pondering, bonding and taking inspiration from, forming companionships, opening up doorways for exchange between the plant world and humanity.
Thanks to you all, and to your trees.
View: A Forest of Trees – A gallery of all the visual contributions.