Ripples of An Epiphany

view of ancient olive tree, viewed from a low angle, showing rough texture of bark and dead wood coming out of a hollow in the old tree. Strong new green growth can be seen on the branches that still emerge from the trunk, and that reach into a deep blue sky.
Tattered amputations and many textures

On the cusp of the New Year I met the ancient olive tree that finally broke a creative drought that had gripped me for years. ‘God’s fountain’ rained on my parched artist’s soul. (The Greek word for epiphany, Θεοφάνεια, breaks down into ‘theo’ [god], and ‘fanaiea’ [fountains])

This tree emanated an almost tangible aura that touched me from 50 metres away. I was profoundly and powerfully awestruck by an irresistible force, instantly understood intuitively, but only dimly comprehended intellectually.

I knew I had found my muse. I began sketching her gnarled and twisted limbs, the warp-and-weft of her tangled roots, her tattered amputations and her many textures. Working in her presence, I found that I could only tackle small parts of the complex labyrinth of branches and roots, and only for short stretches of time. Every nuanced texture contained centuries of history, palpable and overwhelming.

Chalk pastel sketch of the rough, twisted, highly textured limbs of an ancient olive tree. Yellow ochre, yellow, green, purple, grey.
I started tentatively

I started tentatively with small, rough explorations in different media, and finally girded my loins to progress to larger works. By the time I was working on the eighth variation I felt I knew her a bit better and was able to work more freely - introducing new mediums now - the island’s red earth and charcoal powder.

But there was another, wholly unexpected aspect to the tree’s imperative to me. She wanted me to extend her reach globally, and so the Talking Trees project was born, making this exhibition more than a solo show that turned into a collaboration. There were works there by my students, and by the children at Blancanieves Guardería in Can Guasch - as much as I could gather in the short span of time that I had to date.

I made a small video during a quiet moment of the opening night. It ends on a view of the Wish Tree where visitors hung the wishes that had written out on the paper leaves that we had prepared in a printmaking workshop before the event.

Some of you may know already thatI have been collecting people’s tree stories - their memories and experiences - as well as poems, tree-inspired art, photos and more through personal contacts and through social media. These I am in the process of turning into a hand-written collation that will eventually become a book, and still open to new contributions, but more of that in my next blog.

The work will go on. The collecting will continue. The connections will widen, I hope, until we all begin to become PERSONALLY involved with our natural world - it is, after all our habitat and home.

Trees can teach us to collaborate, share and support each other, jut as they do in the forest. We need to follow their lead.

Fine art drawing in yellow ochre, yellows, greens, greys, red ochre and light browns. Interesting and varied  textures created using the rough surface of the paper, as well as finely drawn in pen and ink.
Symphony of the Ages, Mixed media on handmade paper, 56 x 76 cm.

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