The Woods – ‘Sticks, signs and leaves’

sticksAnother facet of the continuing Woods project (see two previous related posts here and here): a book created as part of an MA in Fine Art / Photography at the University of Plymouth, completed in September 2007. The notes below provide some context – the title of the project is a multi-layered play on words, explained in the report produced for the MA – you can contact me if you want to know more!slip-cover-layout

Exhibited-layoutbook-spreadoutSticks, signs and leaves

Project description accompanying the 2007 book

Tanpit Woods, Lower Failand, North Somerset.

The images in this book are created from photographs I’ve taken in a North Somerset wood over a period of 20 years. The wood is within walking distance of my home and the stream that rises near and runs through the wood joins the River Avon in the village where I live. I’ve visited it regularly since 1987 and in 1999 made a year-long, detailed study, both photographic and contextual, which became a Year of the Artist exhibition in 2001, visited by nearly 800 people. Although this exhibition was a major personal achievement, one of my original aims for that project was to try to identify what I found so appealing about the place, a question for which I didn’t feel I’d found a satisfactory explanation by the end of the process, and a theme that continued to provoke me.

My practice since then has been increasingly about an attempt to find an appropriate means of expressing visually a sense that within certain landscapes there is some meaning beyond the topography –  a language, a text – formed by configurations of natural features, details of vegetation, traces of humans and animals, an idea that has intrigued me for many years, possibly since childhood. For this book I have drawn on the archive of material I had created but reworked the images to try to visually express this idea.

In common with the much of my previous work, this is a kind of inventory of a specific location; but this artefact takes the concept further and attempts to create an analogue of the experience of visiting the woods where the viewer / reader of the book can ‘travel’ around The Woods ‘reading’ the signs that provide the vocabulary of place – the catalogue of the characteristics which makes each area unique and distinctive.

Developing the visual approach used in the book (a new departure for me), combined with theoretical research, has now provided many clues and insights into my attraction to this location but it has also increased my understanding of the particularities of place and the value of the familiar and the local.

Liz Milner. September 2007

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