Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
(c) Zoe Sim - Gstaad 2017

(c) Zoe Sim – Gstaad 2017

Seeing trees in a different light

Trees are always an interesting subject for artists and photographers. And a very particular depiction of them can be seen at an intriguing exhibition at the Lucy Bell Gallery. This is not an exhibition concentrating on specific species, more a contemplative riff on the effect of trees on the individual artists. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths asked co-curator Lucy Bell about how the exhibition, which she and John Stezaker have been talking about for 18 months, came together. 

John Stezaker is a lecturer, conceptual artist and collagist who is held in high esteem and has exhibited internationally. He won  the Deutsche Borse prize in 2012 and now lives part-time in St Leonards. Some of the photographers exhibited are students of Stezaker’s and come from outside the Hastings area, others are respected artists who happen to live on the south coast. The results display varying photographic techniques and printing methods.  The artists explore contemporary photographic practice using various lighting, film and digital processes –­ infra-red, light techniques, collage ­– to produce a contemporary photographic arboretum.

The results are quite magical, lyrical and some quite ethereal.

(c) Melissa Moore - Untitled

(c) Melissa Moore – Untitled

Melissa Moore’s photographs “have been made over a few years in many different boroughs, frequently during late night walks. Darkness has held a particular draw, when the city’s own dimensions can fade from view, and the magnetism of the tree comes into prominence more fully.”

Allan Grainger’s work Arbor Mysterium is a body of work that has emerged over 18 years spent walking at night along the old paths and bridleways of East Sussex. “To be in a wood or forest at night one needs to surrender to it or become easily spooked. Being out in the country at night without artificial light was for centuries commonplace; few today have experienced an environment without some type of artificial light.”

Zoe Sim’s digital infrared photography over saturates treescapes into pink worlds. False-colour infrared photography has a dark history, as it was invented for war camouflage detection in the 1940s. Her images hint towards a “futuristic environment where technology is beginning to seep into nature and appears to be malfunctioning at times”

Ieuan Morris’s studies of ancient Yew trees on the northern slopes of the Brecon Beacons are compelling, suggesting a “molten flow as well as anatomical features” reminiscent of the fleshy studies of classical paintings.

(c) John Stezaker Tree No-8--300 (1)John Stezaker’s ‘Tree’ series are symmetrical mirror images of the boles of trees from the pocket book of British trees which he began in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he returned to the series using (unusually) his own photographs of urban tree boles. Stezaker is mostly known for his intriguing collage work from found photographs making ‘readymades’ by juxtapositioning images from postcards, magazines, books

“I remember thinking that the reflective seam was a way of thinking about collage in a digital age. The cut was virtual. By making it reflective, it seemed a way of looking at that divide between different orders of the image – giving the reflection (the image) an equal footing with the real.”

Kirsten Reynolds’ light drawings are made during “the destabilizing hours of darkness amongst these holders of ancestral memory”. The resulting images depict an enigma. All human civilizations “have revered, worshipped and recognized both the real and symbolic importance of trees. They represent a source of fertility and life, a link between heaven and hell, and many cultures believe they harbour the spirits of the dead.”

It’s a poignant, intriguing exhibition. Trees are ubiquitous, always there. We see them in all shapes and forms in various seasons – naked and dressed, tossed by the wind and lit by the sun, the sun’s rays filtering through the branches and leaves. However, this show gives the opportunity to see trees literally in a new light.

Artists: Zoe Sim, Kirsten Reynolds, John Stezaker, Jean-Luc Brouard, Allan Grainger, Faith Powell, Melissa Moore, Ieuan Morris, and Kristof Szentgyorgyvary.

Arboretum, curated by John Stezaker and Lucy Bell, is at the Lucy Bell Gallery, 46 Norman Road, St Leonards TN38 0EJ until 2 March. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm.


Posted 21:41 Wednesday, Feb 6, 2019 In: Photography

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