I live and work in Scotland, and forestry within our rural economy has been in decline over many decades. There is however, a growing and vibrant number of small rural timber related businesses who are trying to make a difference.
Some are saw millers reviving interest in local hardwoods, some are cabinet makers using locally sourced materials and I exclusively use Scottish grown sustainable wood in my sculpture.
I see our woodlands as communal assets and an opportunity for the future. As industry and big business leave our woodlands, I think we should see cities like, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Dundee as inspiration. Their similar experiences of being abandoned by industry and their recognition that culture and the arts could reverse their fortunes. In my opinion, woodlands, particularly those in public ownership have an enormous cultural potential for those of us in the creative sector.
I think there is a real possibility that a few well-chosen woodlands could spark an economic turnaround for British arboriculture. Consider an ancient broad leaf forest as a venue, imagine an event where the woods are inhabited by all the arts across the sector. As you walk through trees every twist and turn reveals music, theatre, recitals, sculpture and individual trees dressed to the nines, Yoga, food etc.
We should be looking at woodlands as a resource and not just somewhere to walk your dog.
Turning now to my work, I try and keep my work modern and relevant and as you can see from the photographs, it’s all about body language. For a moment, please focus on the seated figure. He is intended to give the message that you are invited to sit with him. There is no hidden agenda, there is nothing sinister in his pose. His facial expression is one of him listening intently to what he is being told. These figures are intended to reflect the very latest trend in society (as I see it) of sharing your ups and downs, laugh with him, cry with him, blame him, thank him, shout at him or sit in silence. When seen in the flesh, you do want to touch him, he is warm and there is a glimmer of real life and personality – something I believe can only be achieved through the use wood. My figures can be used in meeting places, office campuses or private gardens.
The seated figure is called ‘no hidden agenda’ it should be used, interacted with, you could sit and play guitar or sing, take selfies, hold up protest banners and include him in your cause. Treat him as one of your friends, give him a social media profile.
Woodland owners are often looking for ways to diversify, one idea is to create a natural burial ground. At one time many thought non-religious woodland burial grounds would be very much more popular than they appear to have become. I believe the concept is sound, but the few I have visited were devoid of the any sense of the sacred. I’m firmly of the opinion that if artists were involved in these woodland burial grounds, they could be transformed into permanent art installations. Well thought out, sombre, but utterly inspiring places that those grieving would want to visit and not feel (as seems sometimes to be the case now) dissuaded from engaging with an individual grave.
My wooden figures are also intended for use in woodland burial grounds, (or private garden memorials) the subject can be no one in particular or absolute realism, effigies if you like. Used for therapy and comfort when suffering grief.
Find Robert here: www.ingrainedculture.co.uk