Inspired by the book, ‘Gossip from the Forest’, which explored connections between fairytales and forests (Maitland, 2013) I started thinking about the forest as a universal platform for magic, transformation, freedom and potential, and its duality as a place of refuge or exile, fear or hope.
Many of us have heard childhood stories in our different languages, in which the forest or jungle plays a vital role and I wanted to highlight the importance of the impact of nature on identity and culture. As I reflected on how to communicate my idea, four distinct stages came to mind; the initial paintings would focus on ‘Approaching’ the forest while the second stage, ‘Inhale/Exhale’ would explore a coming alive of the senses. The third stage would be an ‘Immersion’ in the experience while the final paintings would be my interpretation of ‘Being’ the forest.
During the process, I considered what the forest could offer as a place of solitude and introspection. Thinking of ways in which I could navigate this imaginary space gave me an opportunity to reflect on my work practice and goals. By wanting to connect the viewer to their environment, I inadvertently found a way to empower myself. I came to the conclusion that it was in my hands to either be my stepping stone or my stumbling block. Comparing the first and the last paintings, I feel there has been a sense of discovery and of taking away a camouflage, while peering through the foliage, I found myself.
The diversity of the final series was surprising. The four distinct stages required different ways of working; at times I needed to use more glazes and transparency, at others more texture and movement. I found the process of hiding and revealing layers more essential for the ‘Immersion’ paintings, as I started breaking down the composition, while the ‘Being’ ones required a more dynamic application of paint. Trying to engage the viewer through the paintings using elements such as texture, colour, shape, light and contrast, I realised that these are some of the ways in which we naturally make visual sense of our world.
Whether we know the forest from our dreams or nightmares, its stories have had a part in making us who we are today. It is worth considering especially now, that If we lose our forests, we may lose ourselves.