Friday, 18 March 2011

The Installation of Barcode: FB184

Philippa Lawrence installs Barcode: FB814

We have some great photos here of the installation of Philippa Lawrence's new artwork at High Vinnalls. As you can see, the weather was good and the installation went according to plan.

Philippa Lawrence, the artist

Wrapping one of the trees

Measuring each band of the barcode

Philippa Carefully wrapped each tree: the fabric causes no damage to the trees or the creatures who live in them.

Jakey the dog, overseeing the work

Philippa (centre) with her friend Marcus and Louisa from Meadow Arts

Almost finished

Philippa Lawrence, Barcode: FB814

Click on the link on the right hand side of this page to read Philippa's proposal for this piece of work.

Coming soon: we'll have some news about an upcoming event, so that you can see the work for yourself. Stay tuned for more details...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Philippa Lawrence Creates New Artwork

Artist Philippa Lawrence is making a new artwork, as part of Meadow Arts Public Commissions Programme. Here is Philippa’s proposal for the new work…

We abuse land because we regard it as commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
Aldo Leopold

‘Barcode: FB814’ © Philippa Lawrence
A temporary site-responsive piece at High Vinnalls, Mortimer Forest, from March 2011, for Meadow Arts Public Commissions Programme, funded by Arts Council England and the Elmley Foundation. Special thanks to Georgina Sharp and Ian Hickman of the Forestry Commission. 

This piece of work can be viewed for the next few months at Mary Knoll Valley, High Vinnalls, Mortimer Forest, Herefordshire (from the High Vinnalls car park, take the Forest Road and turn left).

My relationship with trees is one built upon a close and easy physical proximity.  In childhood one of the ways I spent my days was climbing trees, local trees accepted my slight young limbs and that of my friends as we scaled and climbed, testing our dexterity and being flushed with delight at our exertions and in being abroad in another place within the arms of the tree. I tested my physical capabilities in climbing their branches and subsequently in my adult years once more embraced their form, tightly wrapping their dead limbs with swathes of cloth for  ‘Bound’.

I have an abiding respect for trees and I am aware of their deep place in our human psyche. Human kind has a deep and profound connection with trees. Our relationship with trees is deep and unequivocal. We are totally dependent on them as the lungs of the earth. Through them we breathe, by them we are sheltered - they heat us, feed us, enchant us – but it is vital we do not romanticize our relationship with trees but instead choose to acknowledge and respect their vital importance to us and to protect them.

Until recently I would have considered that as a nation we have and do value the ancient woodlands that still exist, but recent governmental decisions which outraged so many was to sell off and privatise these vast swathes of land that remain rooted to and from the earth. Will we be happy only when we have manicured and ring fenced and controlled all of our land – where then do we have a land that can represent the psyche – the wild and dark and uncanny within ourselves if we don’t have spaces that can also make us feel the otherness of things and of place? Trees have in fact made us the nation we are, as a nation we set sail in wooden vessels to seek new lands. Without a land surrounded by sea and deep in trees we would not have been able to ‘conquer’ the world’.

I am also increasingly and acutely aware of the fragility of the infrastructures upon which we depend and that trees underpin our existence. ‘Barcode: FB814’ will be a work that is both aesthetic and cerebrally stimulating, which has the potential to open a door into issues of commodity, of the place of ‘trees’ in our lives. And naturally the value we place on our woodland.

Wood is a material we seldom talk about as being irreplaceable, we continue to live in a paper hungry world where the real value of the source material or the efforts required to obtain the raw material is not especially considered or valued. Wood is used more and in even more ways than most of us consider, from a pencil to a house, from furniture to electricity, from a napkin, book or newspaper to the inside of a luxury car.

The work
The piece will be based upon existing barcode(s) from wood products, scaled up and translated into black and white striations of cloth wound around the trunks of living trees.

To enlarge barcodes associated with wood products, cut appropriate proportions in black and white cloth to wrap and bind on the trunks and limbs of relevant trees.

A landscape is the land transformed, whether through the physical act of inhabitation or enclosure, clearance or cultivation or through human perception

‘Place’ by Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar

Books such as ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar invite the reader to question and engage in an understanding and a definition of place, space, of site, environment and of habitat (through the realm of art).

We may not have an immediately clear definition of these states, and what they mean to us individually, but collectively they are of vital importance and we should know where our and their boundaries lay. Man attempts to maintain swathe and power over nature and this control is the basis for many conflicts. It is apt that there has been outrage from the public at the proposed sale of our forests, our last accessible and ‘free’ native spaces. Forestland is a small fraction of the European landscape in the twenty-first century. (Britain is the second least forested nation in Europe, the sixth largest importer of timber, but in the early Middle Ages, much of Europe’s land mass was forested quite densely, with Britain being covered by 98%.)

FB814 came to be through invitation and conversation with Meadow Arts and out of a necessity to place a version of ‘Bound’, the work made for Croft Castle, into an environment where it could be easily accessed by the public and a wider rural population.

My practice is broader than ‘tree wrapping’ and I hoped to make a new work that connected me to place. The ‘Bound’ series is striking and effective, which works on many levels - and has the potential to draw communities together.  For the Rural Commissioning Programme it was more important for me to find the right context and place and make a new work born from time and research.

Hereford is known for its special relationship to trees, with many ancient woodlands and a long history of cider orchards. I initially wanted to make a work in an orchard and worked up other proposals that examined the close relationship between man and the fruit trees that I yet hope to make. I learnt a great deal, visiting special places, meeting many types of tree and people in the course of this research and developing poignant and powerful connections with place.

At the initial stages of the project I visited Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA – for a site-visit. An exhibition opens in April 2011 in which I am making a Bound work, but what I wanted to make was a piece that raised issues of the commodification of the land through the use of a barcode on tall pines – the raw materials for much of the pioneers' colonization of the land.

I was reading Brush Cat by Jack McEnay and through his work and writing on the logging industry in America and issues behind wood economy as well as a questioning of how the people approached and used the space and the landscape of the arboretum.

As ever in making a work like FB814 or Bound I am struck by the potential, energy and privilege in working so closely with and amongst trees. To work in the ‘natural’ environment in an honest way – spending time – the act of binding is as much a binding of the trees as it is a metaphor also for a connection to place.

Six trees will be wrapped at High Vinnals and the relationship between them unites them whilst also recognizing their individuality. The trees in this area are harvested for crop not in one swathe but taken out individually – to make hardwood dowelling and for the building trade.

I hope the work is striking and aesthetic whilst also celebrating the work of the Forestry Commission in managing a sustainable relationship with trees, and may help people reconsider our relationship to these places and the centrality of wood in all of our lives.

‘Barcode: FB814’ is a piece that draws attention to the nature of these managed woodlands. The forest at Mortimer is especially interesting in its mix of ancient woodland and new planting. There are areas here that are widely accessible and other places that have a sense of timelessness, offering the wanderer a perspective of the liminal and the potential for transformation – these deeply wooded areas have a profound impact upon our psyche. Our folklore and fairytales abound with descriptions and metaphor related to the forest. 

The area chosen to work with is an enclosure of young oak trees approximately 80 years old that will be individually felled to provide wood for the building industries. The barcode on these trees is the same – it is taken from hardwood dowelling and in its uniformity draws our attention to the contradiction between the individual nature of each individual tree and the way that mass consumerism demands the rendering of it into a single homogenized unit.

 Philippa Lawrence, March 2011
Written References and related source material:

Place – Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar
The Tree – John Fowles
The Greening of Science – Rupert Sheldrake
Wildwood – Roger Deakin
The Uses of Enchantment – Bruno Betthelheim
Fairytales - The Brothers Grimm

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Welcome to Meadow Arts brand new blog. We're getting things prepared for our next exhibition and we'll be keeping you up to date with our progress. There is a lot to organise before an exhibition can be up and running and there has already been months of behind the scenes work going on, before we can get anywhere near the artwork.

Keep checking in with us for a blow by blow account of the whole process.......