China Life Magazine Interview, Earth Issue, January 2020
China Life Magazine Interview
Q1 For your latest works Fire, you’ve mentioned the viewer is left to weave their own experience into the woodland, invited to enter, to sit down, to be silent and still; to become a part of the wood and for a time to find a place within it. Would you please tell us more about viewer’s experience? Have you really invited viewer to participate in this work? How was the feedback?
This refers to the way that I hope the images are experienced by the viewer. I would like to convey something of how I feel when I am in the woods, to draw the viewer into the image, to open their imagination within the space so that they can enter the forest in a psychological sense, at the same time drawing on their own knowledge and experiences of woodland; stories, myths, cultural references.
I try not to be overly descriptive in the narrative content of the images. I want to leave some ambiguity so that while the viewer can experience the image in a visual sense, it is also a journey. Some of my images hold unexpected sculptural interventions, others simply lead the viewer inside by using a composition that is aimed at encouraging the eye, and therefore the self, to travel into or through the forest space. I would like my images to create suggestions to spark the imagination.
Q2 Since when you stared to inscribe and locate yourself within the landscape in order to develop a richer personal interaction within the forest? I found the first series i knew about you was Knit one, Pearl one (2011).
I started to work in the woods in this way at the end of my Photography MA in 2007 with my first landscape series Silent, Dark and Deep.
Q3 Do you think your works belong to the gallery or museum? What do you think of the works in nature fields and exhibitions in galleries?
I love seeing my work in galleries, I really enjoy the juxtaposition of landscape imagery in interior settings, the contrast between the richness of the fauna and the starkness of the gallery wall.
In 2012 I recreated the image below, Come with Me 7, as a sculptural installation for a sculpture trail in Dartmoor National Park. The trail was open to the public for 6 weeks so the work took on a temporal element as the bracken wilted and died back, shrinking and changing colour. I would love to work in this way more in the future.
Q4 Where do the surprises of photography come from? Compared with other media such as sculpture, is it more random? I’m sure most photographers will agree that the surprises in photography are the most enjoyable and exciting part of making images. For me the surprise elements are perhaps more random because I work outdoors. There are so many changing components to the woodland environment, which makes it all the more interesting, so when I’m planning an image I try to leave the outcome or process as loose as possible.
I travel to the woods with a rough idea of what I’d like to achieve but I try to be open to any number of unexpected elements; weather, the type of forests that I might come across and decide to work in, how I work with the materials, the progress of the seasons, time of day, mood, vegetation, wildlife. The unexpected always produces the most interesting images and the most enjoyable experiences making them.
Q5 How will the dialogue with the forest continue? Using forests as a medium to think about identity issues, do you have an answer or you have new issues to think about all the time?
Identity is an ever changing and evolving phenomenon so I don’t feel I will reach a point where I have answered all my questions or ‘finished’ working on the subject. The dialogue grows and broadens with each series and when one question is explored more will doubtless arise from it.
Q6 You mentioned in an interview that you would love to make some work in forests abroad; particularly the Pacific North West, Japan, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica. How is this plan going?
At the moment my son is small so I am continuing to make my work in the UK but I plan to travel abroad to work in the future. I find endless inspiration in UK woodlands and it challenges me to find new and interesting ways to view familiar places or to visit new areas further afield. I recently went to Northumberland just south of the Scottish border on a climbing and surfing trip with my family. Our friends took us to an incredible sandstone crag carving its way through old, mature pine plantations. With names like Raven Crag, Cold Law, Hangman’s Rock, King’s Seat and Black Hag the crags of Northumberland fill me with intrigue and anticipation, I can’t wait to get back there and see what might happen!
Q7 Maybe it’s a private question. What impact and inspiration does your family have on your creation?
I come from an artistic family on my Mum’s side and a scientific and theological background on my Dad’s side so this has given me a broad range of standpoints to draw from in my practice.
My husband was a commercial photographer for 20 years but gave it up about 10 years ago to teach wild food and foraging. He has a high level of technical and creative ability and he helped me greatly, particularly in the early days with the technical side of my photography and I continue to discuss ideas with him and with my sister. They are both good at being objective and it often helps that they have some level of distance from the work in order to see it more clearly. I value their feedback and input hugely and it plays an important role for me in the way the work takes shape.
My son is becoming more interested in how I make my work and is keen to come and get involved so it will be fun to work on something together in the future.
Q8 As an artist, how to keep sensitive and keen？
I just love making my work, I feel incredibly lucky and privileged that my job involves spending my days in the woods with my camera and I try to never take it for granted. The thing that really drives me is some kind of burning need to make things. This has taken many forms over the years from sculpture to painting, sketching and photography. I don’t think this will fade ever fade.
The sensitivity, I hope, is a response to the places that I work, they demand sensitivity. I hope to continue to work in the landscape and to find out what will happen in each new place. Each image is a surprise, there is a particular feeling when I know I’ve made an image I really like or that works, a sparkle of satisfaction or a kind of peace. A shoot day is like searching for something; walking, looking, shooting, walking some more. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t but when I get this feeling I can go home happy.
Q9 Will you focus on other topics, such as technology?
Working with the landscape my thoughts often return to climate change. I’ve been thinking about how to discuss this topic in my work for many years now and I think the presence of those concerns are omnipresent and inseparable from the viewing of landscape photography. Recently I have had some ideas that feel interesting and I hope to develop them so that they will find a way into my new work.