Just over two years ago I was continuing to use Monoprints, with images relating to Ecocide/Climate Change, both imagined, impending, & real (the Australian bushfires); there are also some more Hopeful images such a ‘The Revival Tree’, Ciconia’ & ‘Condor (Gymnogyps)’ (see images at the foot of this page).
I then did several of the Pollarded Lime Trees outside my Flat (they had just been trimmed that day). They started to become something of an obsession…
London’s Pollarded Street Trees (predominantly Lime & Plane, chosen for their resilience to pollution) became something of a multi-valent representation of so many things we do/don’t know about Ecology to me; & Nature’s Real place in our world.
I remember feeling disgusted when I saw them shorn back in this manner on Wandsworth Bridge Road decades ago – this had been done brutally, & in spring (this is Not the right time to do this, as the Sap lost at this time can be damaging .) – but this stemmed more from my lack of knowledge about this being a necessary process, not least for their prolonged longevity. They also often need cutting to stop them from outgrowing their given space (interfering with telephone lines, etc) & prevent light levels being reduced in the street/in house, makes trees more wind-resistant, whilst also stopping roots from becoming too destructive to paving. It also reduces the amount of leaves/leaf drop, hence reducing council costs during autumn, and provides material for mulching. So while this regular pruning may appear brutal, there is sound reason to do so.
The Trees may have an added beauty to them because of this pollarding. However, the bottom line is Man is in Control, & nature is given little choice…
I since learnt that Street Trees (as described by Peter Wohlleben in the brilliant ‘The Hidden Life of Trees) function on a minimal level due to the near-complete lack of symbiotic fungal networks that their forest cousins are nourished by & rely on, along with the obvious, additional stresses put on them by City living.
Their appearance defines an ongoing relationship with Man; indeed, many of them have a cartoon, anthropomorphic appearance, with distinct heads, arms & bodies; and because of this back & forth, dynamic process of growth & removal over time the Trees seem to dance in a particular direction, as they struggle (vainly) to grow bigger, both outwards & upwards. They seem to me like huge Bonsai.
There are wonderful areas where changing directions of growth & weight make the Trees bulge, & the bark appears more like a liquid, flowing down around the younger pollarded areas with gravity. This can best be appreciated from the base, looking straight up.
This gets more interesting to me regarding the process of printing them, & the subject, the longer I do them.
There’s a certain rhythm to doing these in such volume – I tried to represent every single tree in my surrounding Streets back in London – the repetition of shapes, forms, movement & texture reminds me of a cruder form of Chinese Sung painting, where Artists would spend years representing birds, flowers & landscapes thousands of times, until the process takes over & that Subject metamorphoses, & almost becomes something else.
These neighbourhood trees expanded to include dead/dying trees in nearby Wanstead Park, & from Dartmouth (where I now live); Monoprints from the latter months of 2020 were further informed by the following literature; ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben, ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ by David Wallace-Wells, ‘Gaia’ by James Lovelock, & Merlin Sheldrakes’s amazing ‘Entangled Life’, which expand on the relationship of Trees with Fungi (and other fascinating endosymbiotic relationships, such as Lichens.). The latter book in particular led me to start using a 2nd printed image from the original Monoprint (the ghost print) & then printing over these using hand-cut stencils made of old off-cuts of TruGrain (around the original outline of the Stump) with translucent White/Creams with Gloss extender. the ink on this print would then behave/look like the fungal mycelia that reach throughout any given Tree. I enhanced these further, on occasion, by feathering edges with a large, dry paintbrush.
in 2021 I finished creating another series of Tree Portraits as a Commission, documenting the arid region of Ojai in California. While many native species are hardy & naturally resilient the current extremes of Climate experienced in the region are enabling a number of accidentally introduced diseases to take advantage of them, including the Canyon Live Oak, which is portrayed in many of the Prints. The latter end of this Commission led me into much larger Prints (Ojai #27-29) using composite Monoprints with stencils, and minor embellishments with Acrylic & Ink, which were a new & challenging way of working.
This year I have completed a similar series around the now highly vulnerable Joshua Trees in the same region, one of which has been selected for the curated hang at the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair in November.
I’ve continued using this larger format for four local Monterey Pines; two of which are up from the South West Coastal Path near Little Dartmouth Farm, and another two which reside on the other side of the River Dart in Brownstone near Kingswear. you can see some footage of one of the few as yet unsold Prints directly below….I’ll be creating more of these imminently, so watch this space!
This Ongoing Series is a celebration of the endless wonder of Trees, & a Recognition of all of Nature’s ongoing struggles.
“No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty fall foliage.
Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared.
We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees—trees are invisible ”
― Richard Powers, The Overstory (p. 423).
Stewart Taylor Prints will contribute 5% of every purchase made via Stripe in my Shop to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere with Stripe Climate (https://stripe.com/en-gb/climate). Stewart Taylor Prints Shop
The 15 piece Monoprint ‘Collage’, “Tree Portraits I” was selected for the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2020 Nov/Dec (Virtual Edition), & the ‘New Era’ Online exhibition with Art Number 23 Dec ’20 – Jan ’21, and is making its first physical appearance later this year at the 16th International Print Triennial Graphica Creativa. This is under the theme of ‘Untold Artists’ Stories’
17 September 2022 – 8 January 2023
Jyväskylä Art Museum, Jyväskylä Finland Graphica Creativa 2022 – OPEN CALL |
‘Stump #209’ was selected for the 2021 Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair – Stewart Taylor – Overview | Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair (woolwichprintfair.com)
‘Cima Dome Fire VIII’ has been selected for Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2022; Stewart Taylor | Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2022 (woolwichprintfair.com)
Find out more about me & my practice from my Interview with Gita Joshi from the Curator’s Salon