2020 -The Tree Portraits

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I started 2020 continuing with Monoprints, with images relating to Ecocide, both imagined, impending & Real (Australia); there are also some more positive images (?) such a ‘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) have recently become 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 due to stress)  – 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 outgrowing their given space (interfering with telephone lines, etc) & prevent light levels being reduced in street/in house, makes trees more wind-resistant,  whilst also stopping roots 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 very solid reason to do so.

The Trees may have an added beauty to them because of it.

However, the bottom line is Man is in Control, & nature has no choice

Their appearance defines an ongoing relationship with Man; indeed, many of them have a cartoon human 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 growth & weight make the Trees bulge & the bark appears more like a liquid, flowing down around the younger pollarded areas with gravity. This can only really 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’ve tried to represent every tree in my surrounding Streets – 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.

The discussion expands, & multivalence increases

This Series is a celebration of the Trees’ struggle, & indeed all of Nature’s struggle.