This group exhibition brings together work by the five artists selected for the R&D stage of Jerwood Open Forest in 2016: Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, Keith Harrison, David Rickard and David Turley.
Rebecca Beinart’s projects are often collaborative and explore the crossover between art, ecology and politics, taking the form of live events and interventions in public places. For this exhibition she has made a live work using a collection of stories about lost trees, developed through research collected around specific forests. The audience experiences a series of one-to-one encounters, which draw upon connections between personal experiences of loss and wider themes such as deforestation and collective memory.
Magz Hall works with sound and radio. For this exhibition she has developed an interactive trail of radio transmissions through the forest, playfully enabling trees to whisper to each other, and re-engaging with a sense of technological enchantment intrinsic to the early radio experiments that make up much of her research interest. Members of the public will record their secrets and dreams onto simple radio hardware disguised within a tree.
Keith Harrison is fascinated by the potential for the direct physical transformation of clay from a raw state utilising industrial and domestic electrical systems in a series of time-based public experiments. For this exhibition he has created a multi-faceted, performative sculpture bringing together industrial forces within the context of the forest, inspired by his upbringing in the heavily post-industrialized Black Country. Keith constructed a series of mud jumps through the forest, working with BMXers; from the same mud he will build a prototype car to be launched from a monumental ramp as a public event.
David Rickard’s work Returnings is a vast forest installation built with timber collected from across the UK, which explores the cyclical journey of the forests’ trees. Each piece of ‘reclaimed’ wood is imprinted with details of its previous function and location, thereby recording a network of the past lives of timber elements within the depths of their original environment.
David Turley’s work centres on a ‘Men of the Trees Forestry Diary’ from 1947, unearthed at an auction in Australia, which documents the daily life of a man planting trees in Orlestone Forest outside Ashford, Kent. Turley has engaged with the social and cultural events described in the notebook’s pages, exploring the potential for site engagement through its specific historical narrative.
The five artists were selected from almost 500 diverse and ambitious proposals in response to an open call to UK-based artists within 15 years of beginning their practice. Artists were invited to submit bold, broad-thinking proposals that explored the potential of forests as a site for art. Each selected artist receives a £2,000 research and development fee to develop their commission proposals, test feasibility and explore potential sites within England’s Public Forest Estate. One artist is selected to receive a further commission of £30,000. All of the artists also participate in a programme of professional development activities as a peer group, including workshops and advisory sessions alongside one-to-one mentoring sessions, and present a group exhibition at Jerwood Space.
The selection was made by: Katherine Clarke, artist and founding partner of muf architecture/art; Neville Gabie, artist; Shonagh Manson, Director, Jerwood Charitable Foundation; Hayley Skipper, National Arts Development Programme Manager, Forestry Commission England; and Dr Joy Sleeman, writer, curator and lecturer. The initiative was launched in 2013 in response to an opportunity to open up the Public Forest Estate to artists in partnership with Forestry Commission England. It responds to a need to support artists, perhaps working in a forest context for the first time, with the professional skill set with which to realise a large scale work, and with access to experienced professionals throughout. Alumni include Semiconductor and Chris Watson.