Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reflecting and refracting in the ancient woodlands

In March I was invited (with artists Kate Dyer and Carole Miles) by Made in Corby to create a walk in the ancient woodlands of King's Wood in Corby, Northamptonshire.

For the artists, the project was an opportunity to continue the collaborative ideas that we started in our Walk North project, a short residency in Brinkburn, Northumberland.

We knew we wanted to create a short walk with art interventions in the woods that would draw attention to some aspect of the site. However, until we met in the woodlands we did not know exactly what we would do, we wanted to respond to what the site suggested to us.

This time of year there is very little leaf canopy in the trees, you can see the structure of the tree skeletons way above you. The cool sunlight of early spring seemed to give the trees a silver shimmer. This eventually metamorphised into our idea for using only silver and reflective material for our interventions.

Silver and mirror suggest a precious metal, a shining object, a jewel. It seemed the right material for alluding to the value of an ancient woodland such as King's Wood.

The mirror also suggests the idea of reflection and seeing things from a different angle. I first wanted to use mirror when we discovered the pond, hidden deeper within the woodland and off the beaten path. A still pool of water reflecting its surroundings.

We discussed the precariousness of what we were trying to do, create temporary installations in a public space where they could easily be removed by passers by. There was something about the temporary nature of the installations, the fleeting moments of the natural world's changes and the precariousness of nature and woodlands generally in our threatened habitats that suggested our artworks should be subtle, hard to spot, almost invisible.

We placed shards of mirror under a tree, reflecting fragments of sky and the network of branches above. Looking down to look up. It made me think of the inter-relatedness of things in the natural world - the earth, the air, the sun, all working together to create growth.

We made three mirror shards and sunk them into the pond, reflecting the reflections and becoming almost invisible. The three triangular points alluded back to the Old Law Beacons (the name that we have adopted for us three artists when we collaborate).

We came across the Old Law Beacons on our visit to Lindisfarne. Seen in the distance from the Castle, the Beacons are 70foot and 83foot respectively red brick elongated pryamids, standing like enormous spikes at the edge of the island. They were built in the early 19th century as a navigational aid for ships. We felt we had to create a work that referenced the idea of navigation, so we made three of our own beacons for the pond - three because, well, there are three of us, and together we are navigating our own new journey.

The final intervention I felt was particularly successful was the tree slices. Seen from a slight distance from the path, we wrapped several ash trees in mirror foil. The appearance was that they had had a slice cut out of them. (The image above has not been photoshopped!) Again, I thought about the precariousness of our natural world, and especially ash trees that have become so threatened in recent years by the ash die-back disease. The tree slices looked a little like a part of them had been erased, a portent of what could happen but has not yet. Having made this work, I have an ambition to wrap an entire ash tree in this mirrored foil and watch it become invisible - will ash trees be invisible one day, leaving any trace of themselves behind?

Our walk was well attended by wonderful creative people who got fully involved. To see some of the participants' own photographs of the day visit the Made in Corby blog.