Ecology and Art

Ecology and Art

Created as a unique opportunity to open up the Public Forest Estate, Jerwood Open Forest is a charitable programme that creates commissioning projects for artists working in a forestry context. Five artists have been selected to research and develop radical proposals for a major environmental art piece.

Based on their projects, one of these artists will be selected to realise a £30,000 commission in their chosen Forestry Commission England location. Pictured above is Cosmos by artist duo Semiconductor, one of two commissions realised through the 2014 Jerwood Open Forest initiative.

This year Jerwood Visual Arts and Forestry Commission England launches a group exhibition at Jerwood Space, London (2 November – 11 December 2016) consisting of work from the selected artists. The show is a distillation of each artist’s research, development and mentoring period which has taken place over the last 6 months and will examine the ideas and processes behind each of the artists proposals.

Rebecca Beinart, whose recent works include a commission for the National Trust, is known for her collaborative projects exploring the crossover between ecology and art.  In this group show, the artist explores the relationship between care and loss through a live piece of work that collectively exhibits stories of lost trees. This ambitious project has been developed from forestry research and touches upon themes such as collective memory and deforestation. Examining connections between personal experiences of loss and the changes that take place in the forest scene , the proposed commission seeks to entices the audience through one-to-one encounters, creating an emotionally immersive experience.  In the Jerwood Open Forest 2016 exhibition, Rebecca will be showing a series of ceramic vessels – communicating relative concepts of depletion in the environment.

Also participating in this year’s  collaboration is Magz Hall,  a sound and radio artist whose prospective installation aims to add a playful element to the landscape. Hall has planned to create an interactive trail of radio transmissions. The artist will invite visitors to record their own secret messages into radio hardware that is disguised within a tree, allowing interaction for the public.  For the exhibition, Magz will be showing a constructed dreamspace where the audience will be transported to another landscape through intricately recalled soundscapes.

The work of sculptural artist Keith Harrison brings a more industrial theme to the group as he plans to build a series of BMX mud jumps across the woodland – uniting visions of industrialisation and man-made structures, with the delicate and natural environment of the forest. Harrison, who is fascinated by the physical transformation of clay and known for his time-based experiments, proposes a constructed prototype car out of mud, which will be launched from one of the ramps as a live public event at the open forest. The work Keith will be exhibiting at Jerwood Space will acknowledge the role of the car, in terms of both daytime and nocturnal recreational activities.

If selected for the commission, David Rickard’s project Returnings will take the form of a vast forest installation, through an exhibition of reclaimed wood. The timber will be collected from all over the UK and imprinted with prose by contemporary English poet SJ Fowler. The proposal follows the journey of each piece of wood, sharing a story of its previous function and location. This piece is a celebration of forestry material and the diverse purposes it may have. Within the gallery context David Rickard will be delving into the relationship between words and objects, looking specifically at themes of rest and reflection.

The fifth artist taking part in the exhibition is David Turley, whose work focuses on Men of the Trees Forestry Diary 1947, which documents the life of a man planting trees in Orlestone Forest, Kent. Turley is looking to engage with his audience and the site, using historical narrative from pages of the notebook which he found at an auction in Australia. His work brings alive true past events that showcase social and cultural happenings of the forestry environment, this bringing together of past and present is evident in Turley’s confident abstract paintings which will be shown in the Jerwood Open Forest exhibition.

The five artists have developed bold, innovative projects that explore the potential of forests as art space – the upcoming exhibition at Jerwood Space, London will see these projects transposed within a gallery context – opening the mind and sparking conversation about how contemporary visual artists engage with the current natural environment.

Find out more about the 2016 Jerwood Open Forest:

1. Cosmos, a Jerwood Open Forest Commission by Semiconductor. (2014).