I first had the idea to form a group of artists who used the tree as subject in 2011 following a joint show at Gallery Lefort in Bath with Abi Kremer in April. Soon after I asked Steve Marshall, Director of St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington (New Forest) if he had ever staged a show on trees as he had seen my Bath show and liked it. He said no – what a great idea, and we co-curated with Dr Anne Anderson, a double exhibition Under the Greenwood: Picturing British Trees: Past, (historic) July- October and Present (contemporary which I curated solo) October-November 2013.
The show was a huge success and Present was shown again at The Gerald Moore Gallery in London in March 2014, again to great acclaim. I always knew that this was just the start for me and that we could stage more shows. I asked the artists (who I had found or knew already) if they wanted to show again and they all said yes – I had my group, though it is not fixed but is always expanding and inclusive. The tree is such versatile subject and I wanted to include as many styles, media, scales, philosophies and art practices as possible, the single subject makes it coherent and it seems to work.
I want each exhibition to look different so we will always include local and venue relevant good tree artists to enrich the exhibition. The Arborealists are inclusive.
The RWA provided a perfect venue for the inaugural Arborealist exhibition, it is a fantastic space and its size gave us the opportunity to show some really large works and to show huge diversity in scale as well as idea and style. It is great also to be part of Bristol’s Green capital of Europe project. The tree is a symbol for many of the fragility of our natural environment, both Julian Perry and Kurt Jackson are well known for their ecological concerns.
If I had to choose a favourite piece, I love Dan Hays’s painting – it is mesmeric and shows extraordinary tonal control. That work could not have been painted a few years ago due to technology.
If I could have any work by any artist in the show…. well I am drawn to photorealism and technology related works but linked to romantic subjects like trees. It would have been good to have a David Hockney tree drawing.
Our next exhibition will be at Mottisfont Abbey, National Trust,in September – it will look different again with new work and some new artists. I am currently looking for more venues across the UK.
What’s coming up at Southampton City Art Gallery
We have a great forward programme at Southampton City Art Gallery, shortly we open Louise Bourgeois (Tate Artists Rooms), followed by a superb Dan Holdsworth photography exhibition and in the autumn we will stage a major show on Ben Johnson – the ultimate precision painter (of architectural subjects and urban vistas) his works now take 2 years to make, and he employs assistants and computer generated stencils which are minute. Most of his work disappears into private collections and he is rarely seen in public galleries, the show will illustrate his entire career as an artist from expressive figure paintings to the fantastic architectural works that he produces now – not to be missed.