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Come with me #1

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Come with me #2

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Come with me #7

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Come with me #9

PATHS IN THE FOREST

TEXT BY ANDREW ALLAN


Ellie Davies’ series of photographs combine into a single project that investigates the ways in which we interact physically and emotionally with our environment, on both an individual and social level.

Set within The New Forest, Davies’ images portray pathways and strange lights in densely wooded, unpopulated areas. There is a sense of fairytale charm and folklorish rite; an eerie, fragile presence that references the ancient heritage of the site and times gone by. There are round barrows and other monuments, dating perhaps as far back as the Bronze Age, and more recent history concerning William I and his sons who died in the Forest.

Yet Davies’ photographs are not a documentary of the landscape or of the Neolithic monuments per se – her intrigue is our interaction with the places we visit, and the places we protect and cherish. Her images convey an innocence, and a simplistic inner beauty that is all the more delightful for being simple – for highlighting its own scarcity or fragility.

In Come with Me, a series of trails bustle off into the distance, disappearing between the trunks of tall slender trees. In The Gloaming, colour shimmers in a coat upon the forest floor, burning in the twilight hour. In Knit One, Pearl One, thin lines of wool wind in and around the trees like the web of some giant spider. In Smoke and Mirrors, small trees or branches hover or sprout up from the ground, alive with an inner light.

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Smoke and Mirrors #4

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Smoke and Mirrors #5

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Smoke and Mirrors #6

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Smoke and Mirrors #7

Davies’ interruptions to the landscape are small, but not trivial. It is important to note that, in the search to document our interaction with our environment Davies must also interact with it, playing with our sense of what is real and what is acceptable; blurring the line between the magical or supernatural and the mundane. In so doing, she casts the mundane – trees and their foliage, grass, flowers, light arcs through the forest – in a new light, stressing their importance and elevating them into the impressive.

Her photographs are a blending of two dissimilar worlds. The small tree glowing in the woods evokes a sense of twilight; of the strange things that are said to happen during the witching hour. At this time of day, where the boundary between the natural and the supernatural is broken down, humans in the real world are able to see things that exist only in the unreal: fairies and woodland creatures; the entities and artefacts of folklore and childhood myth.

Davies’ pictures are, to me, a document of the after-effects of this interaction between the real and the unreal. Painted paths drift between tree trunks, suggestive of mischievous creatures who plant ferns in a line along the forest floor, or fairies who as they fly drop the petals plucked from picked flowers.

Beyond this child-like and innocent combination of pathways and shimmers in the gloaming are higher level references and symbolism: the small glowing trees suspended above the forest floor connect culturally with the symbolic imagery of Moses’ Burning Bush, and Eden’s Tree of Knowledge. In both instances the flora were symbols of extreme reverence: an embodiment or extension of God, highlighting an intrinsic and very fundamental relationship between religion and Nature, Nature and ourselves, and us and religion.

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Knit One, Pearl One #1

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Knit One, Pearl One #2

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Knit One, Pearl One #3

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Knit One, Pearl One #4

In his book Aesthetic Theory Adorno writes: “Works become beautiful by the force of their opposition to what simply exists.” Davies, introducing the unreal and supernatural to the physical and otherwise temporal landscape, creates a tension. Here are spaces we can actually see and visit, there are plants and trees that we can touch and smell; it is an interactive environment – but populated, in her images, with artefacts of intangible permanence. There is a hint that the photographs are observations captured as they are about to disappear; as the rift between the two worlds closes over, and heals once more.

By tying in the strands of folklore and heritage, and by being selective about her choice of environment, Davies embellishes that which simply exists, constructing a new landscape that is of the Forest but also more. Representative of our historical relationship with Nature and our place within it, Davies’ photographs offer us a good reason to honour our pact of stewardship with the world in which we live, and to cherish those fragile parts of it that have been in our care for generations.

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The Gloaming #1

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The Gloaming #2

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The Gloaming #3

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The Gloaming #4

RETROSPECTIVE OF WORK

ARTIST STATEMENT


Located on the south coast of England, The New Forest is a landscape that has been shaped by human processes over thousands of years and includes ancient woodlands and timber plantations. As such, the forest represents the confluence of nature and culture, of natural landscape and human activity. Forests are potent symbols in folklore, fairy tale and myth; places of enchantment and magic as well as of danger and mystery.

Against this cultural backdrop, Davies performs small acts of engagement as she responds to the landscape using a variety of strategies, creating pools of light on the forest floor, a golden tree introduced into a thicket shimmers in the darkness, painted paths snake through the undergrowth, and strands of wool are woven between trees.

Davies’ interventions represent a personal and intuitive response to a specific environment, one that is both a World Heritage site and a National Park. In the process of producing these photographs, Davies transforms the natural world before her as she throws light into darkness and sews through nature; at once locating and connecting herself physically, if only for a short time, to the space of the forest. Finally, Davies, who often works alone, frames the space photographically and captures the end result of her mark making.

These altered landscapes operate on a number of levels. They are a reflection of Davies’ inner world, a meditation on universal themes relating to the psyche, and call into question the concept of landscape as a social and cultural construct.

ELLIE DAVIES

BIOGRAPHY

MA Photography London College of Communication

Her first two solo shows opened earlier this year in London and Kiev.

Recent exhibitions: Nine-Point Perspective at Hotshoe Gallery, London, Symbiosis at Hoxton Art Gallery, Lens Culture International Exposure Awards in New York, San Francisco and Paris. The Tallinn 15th Print Triennial at Kumu Art Museum, Estonia in Jan 2011, and the Salon Photo Open 2011 at Matt Roberts Gallery, London.

Awards: 1st Place in the Fine Art Landscape category of the 2010 PX3 Paris Photo Prize, ArtSlant Showcase Juried Winner 2010, and Commended in the LPA Landscape Awards 2010.


www.elliedavies.co.uk