Photographic artwork by British artist Gary Dawes has the trees watching humans.
Artist Gary Dawes has created a series of art works entitled LOOKER – Watchers of the Forest, which aims to raise awareness to the threats faced by trees, woodlands and forests around the world. The first art exhibition to be displayed along the Major Oak trail at the reserve.
“Much of our conservation work here at Sherwood Forest National nature reserve is dedicated to the protection of our magnificent ancient Oak trees,which have survived for hundreds of years.They really have seen many things during the centuries, so Gary’s work provides a thought-provoking perspective, turning the tables on us the viewers or admirers of the trees to highlight a very topical issue for the natural world.”
Jess Dumoulin – Visitor experience manager. Sherwood Forest National nature reserve.
In the Autumn of 2017 Gary started Outsider an evolving land art project, the project also acts as a vehicle in which to experiment and explore various art forms other than photography which are outside his comfort zone. In January 2018 he installed his first outdoor photographic land art installation “Body of light” In the grounds of Amcott house a local museum in Nottingham UK.
Gary explains: I have always loved being outdoors. As a kid I grew up in North West London and spent many of those years on Hampstead Heath, it was just a short walk from where I lived.The Heath had become my playground,so to speak and I put it all down to these early years and experiences in which I forged a connection with the natural world and the outdoors.To this day I still have a deep affinity with the natural world and it’s something I try to reflect in my work. Nature has always played a part in what I do whether it’s a piece of art, film, or photography.The Looker series is just a personal observation regarding the demise and destruction of our trees. I would like to add that I have no interest whatsoever in political statements, visual or otherwise. For me, art transcends politics by a country mile….
The Looker series was shot in the surrounding forests where I now live over a period of around 10 months.I have always felt that you don’t need to travel thousands of miles to find beauty, It’s everywhere,you just need to hunt it down.With the Looker series I wanted to incorporate the different seasons throughout the year to exploit the beauty of an ever – changing landscape and the natural lighting conditions that came with each one. I have always found arboreal forms textures and colours stunningly attractive. They have a beauty in their own right.
Looking back on the project, there were many facets to the looker series, it wasn’t only a human likeness the trees mirrored, there were other elements that I was drawn too as well. One of which was that some of the eyes I came across, and I looked at hundreds had an uncanny resemblance to animals, one being the elephant and that of a whale. We are doing a good job of killing them off too. I was particularly struck by the ethereal other worldly feel the eyes all had, I also felt some of the eyes had a melancholic feel which seemed to reflect the dire situation they are in.I found each eye had their very own unique and individual characteristics and that is what I try and capture. The essence of things.Which on this occassion was the eyes, beautifully created by the trees themselves. Through the passage of time.
From the out set of putting on the land art exhibition at Sherwood forest nature reserve which had never been done before. I decided that I wanted the picture frames to be in keeping within the natural environment.The thought of using genric mass-produced frames, was not very inspiring, to say the least. If the work was to be installed against such a magnificent backdrop, I was compelled to do it justice. So I created the frames for the pictures myself. I used my walks in the forest to explore and look for various organic materials that the forest had on offer and which I found visually interesting in both form, texture and colour, they included a vast array of materials,I came across trees that had recently been felled and discovered the trees in question were being used for fence posts and decking so I found another use for the barks instead for an artistic purpose, other materials included moss, lichen, leaves, pine needles, coal, goat willow seeds, burnt conker shells, sycamore seeds, and incorporated rotting wood pulp black mould, old bird shell, and feathers. It was a long process with all the experimentation which took months, but well worth the effort. I am constantly scavenging for ideas to let loose on for up and coming projects and I have always found being outdoors in a natural environment has always helped to trigger ideas which for me personally adds another level to being outdoors, I prefer to use the walks more as a creative endeavour. For me personally It’s not just about going for a walk and admiring the scenery.I find it one of the traits of being into visuals and art, I look at everything.I have a curious mind.
As mentioned above I have always had a deep affinity with the natural world,It’s not a subject mattter that I have just decided to Hi-jack for some self serving agenda regarding the current state of our planet.Nature and wildlife inspired my first short film “Fisheye” which I made many moons ago and about the natural world. I wanted to make a film and work with animals and I had them as the leading characters in the film. I sometimes prefer the company of animals to people if I’m honest.In my previous life in film there was a old saying, never work with animals or children due to I suppose their unpredictability and a lack of control.So I decided to challenge myself and do something different.So I wrote, directed, shot and produced a film about animals and the natural world.The film took 3yrs to make and was heavy going which nearly put me in a nut house if the truth be known,but all that effort paid off when Fisheye made it into the last 8 films that were shortlisted for a BAFTA award for best short film. I have made my own way in life. Self – taught without the need for qualifications or degrees. Aged 16yrs, I abandoned the school classroom and never returned. At the age of 21yrs I began a freelance career in film production at the cutting edge and for many years I travelled extensively plying my trade and learning on a vast and diverse array of film and TV productions which included high-end TV commercials shot in numerous locations around the world. I learned far more about imagery and creativity from the extremley talented people that I had the good fortune to work alongside for many years, and also about life itself with all the travelling that was involved and by just getting stuck in and doing it, than I would have done sat in a school classrom or at a university .The experience as a whole was education in itself. I suppose the bottom line is that I really wasn’t interested in what the system had to teach.
LOOKER Watchers of the forest.
A photographic Land art exhibition showing at Sherwood Forest’s major oak trail.
May 30th – 15th November 2022