MapofWhiteHouseFarmshowingthethreewoodlandareasWoodDyeonOak1024x676Map of White House Farm showing the three woodland areas. Wood Dye on Oak. (1024x676)


Thoughts on my Woodland Residency at White House Farm - February 2017 to January 2018

My year-long residency started in February 2017. It has been a wonderful experience. It gave me the opportunity to spend time in the three woodland areas of the farm and witness the dramatic changes that occur from the awakening of the trees in the spring, to their shutting down through the autumn and winter.

I watched the woodland floor turn from a brown covering of leaves and twigs to a luscious green jungle-like growth of grasses, plants and flowers and smelt the wild garlic in Back House Pond Covet, and the Blue Bells in Rookyard Belt. I felt and heard the effects of the weather: the wind, gentle and fierce causing the leaves to rustle or howl like the sea; and there was a scary moment when I was caught in a thunderstorm and the rain came down in cascades off the bent down, dripping leaves…and me!

I feel as if I have only just started to get to know the trees. There is the oak tree, an enormous subject, an ancient history, a huge presence and a habitat all of its own. I found ‘Snail Hotel’ in February, snails piled up and squeezed into a small sheltered space at the base of an oak. In the summer they climb up into the oak trees to browse. There was the little Black bird’s nest found at the base of another oak which I cast into bronze, now forever caught in a moment of time. And there is the silence of the Nut Grove, where the arching branches and large circular leaves of the Hazel trees give a greenish hue to the church-like space beneath.

The Rookyard Belt, on the hill, is where the Sweet Chestnut trees can be found. These elegant trees with their spear shaped leaves, delicate yellow catkins and flowers that turn into the fiercely protected fruit, seem to me to be strangely feminine given their rugged bark and huge size. Lightning had struck one of the Sweet Chestnuts and left a spectacular scar which runs down the whole length of the trunk. The tree is still alive and standing straight, what strength!

Drawing with the trees all around, can be a deeply peaceful moment when you easily lose yourself in ‘looking’ and ‘mark making’. Like a meditation it sends you to a place of stillness where you disappear into the drawing.

Linked deeply to the rhythms of the area are the bird, animal and insect life, and as long as I kept still and quiet, for a short time I became part of it. The loud noise of bird song in the spring was like an invisible orchestra tuning up, strangely I couldn’t see a bird at all! And in the Nut Grove, the early sound of the bees buzzing in March was a surprise as they welcomed the appearance of the Snow Drops, a long awaited and first taste of nectar in the New Year. The brave challenge of a little Wren, who flew to within a couple of feet of me as I drew in the Rookyard Belt, scolded me for being there. Seconds later an exquisite sunlit dragonfly came to have a look too, hovered above me like a helicopter with its wings audibly beating the air, twisting and turning to show off its backwards, sideways and forwards motion. Quite amazing.

The new Oak Gall ink drawings came from finding one marble gall on an oak, which led on to some great help from conservator and curator Lisa Psarianos, who went searching for the galls and came to my house for us to make the ink. A big thank you to her - as well as to all the members of the general public/visitors to White House Farm who helped with the hunt for galls as well. The year has gone too quickly, lots seen, lots found, and lots learnt.

The results of the residency are in this exhibition, I hope they reflect some of the above.

Jennifer Hall
The Alde Valley Spring Festival Exhibition 2018