Wilcote Studio’s Residency

Recently I did a week’s residency at Wilcote Artists Studio’s in Oxfordshire. It is a fantastic place with lots of really talented and interesting artists and is situated in a beautiful area near the small hamlet of Wilcote.

During this residency, I began with painting and drawing. Continuing on the themes that I have been engaging with in the past year, I based this work on a very recent visit with my children to the Knepp Rewilding Project. We spent two days walking the paths at Knepp and saw many interesting landscape features which are just not present in most of the landscape we have available to us locally. We talked about the fact that there were no fences other than the one which surrounds the estate. It was also apparent that fallen and dead trees had been left rather than cleared away and there were also Longhorn cattle and red deer that were free to wander and did in fact cross our path. The cattle seemed very calm and doscile and we concluded that this might be due to not having experienced any negative behaviour from the daily movement required of them whilst living on a conventional farm as well as the benefits of being able to exist as nature intended; roaming, foraging and living a cows life. Lastly we noticed the many hillocks made from thorny bushes and shrubs which mosaiced the land providing shelter for young plants and animals.

I decided to translate this freedom of the landscape into my drawings based on photograps taken at Knepp. I worked loosely with charcoal, graphite, collage and acrylic to produce a series of drawings. Whilst tearing pages to collage I was reminded of the fairytales of Hans Christen Anderson that I have been working with. Rewilded landscapes connect me to a past that I can most easily access through these stories. They evoke a time when people lived in a way which was far closer to the land and where our landscapes were much less manipulated to suit shifts in agriculture to produce an abundance of cheap and throw away food. This was also a time where the land was far more accessible and much less shaped to suit the tastes of a small percentage of people.

From here I progressed to working directly on the book I was using as collage material. I have started to see rewilded landscape as a book of fairytales; full of deep dark woods, voyages and magic. Rewilding has allowed me to hope that there might once again be a world that allows a deeper connection with nature to be experienced by all. Paintings, drawings and ‘The Book of My Truth’ made at Wilcote, will be available to view at my upcoming exhibition at The North Wall Art Centre in Oxford from the 15th February to the 4th March 2024.