Shinrin Yoku. FMP background

In January we were to have undertaken a short self-initiated project. A warm-up if you like, for writing one’s own ‘proposal’, as FMP would require. Unfortunately, I had been unwell and missed the beginning of this. I had recovered enough to haul myself out of sick-bed and in to the Arts in Health Conversation. This meant that when I did get back into the studio, I felt as if I was rather on the back foot – and feeling a bit anxious as a result. In a gesture of mindfulness, I decided to begin my project with a simple exploration of a beautiful collection of Oriental brushes that had been passed on to me over Christmas. They had belonged to my late father. With the exception of one, fine brush, they were unused. I felt an urge to develop a technique for painting with them, thirsting to make simple, fluid, gestural strokes with water colours and the ink blocks in the brush sets – calming – I hoped.

A subject to paint? Thoughts of the CAIHC, still in my mind…. ‘Standing beneath a tree’ resonating; Oriental brushes and a thought of Japanese paintings; cherry blossom perhaps (cravings for springtime – too long in the wintery SADs?) all mingled to come up with T R E E S.

An initial image search to stimulate ideas …… I experimented with both ‘trends’ that I could observe: a distinction between these strong, vertical perceptions where the trees feel like they encompass you and the representations, like Taikan’s & Mondrian’s, that show the branches and sort of separate you from the ‘tree object’ as an observer.

Later, searching the internet for ‘Japanese/tree/art’; I came upon the practice of ‘Shinrin Yoku’ or forest bathing – the health benefits of which have been asserted, in Japan since the 1980’s. This tied-in with what I had learned earlier, during the ‘Mind & Body’ projects concerning the benefits of microbiomes, not just within our bodies, but also for trees, in the form of the Hartig net (by which they ‘communicate’ )and, connected to this, an idea that gardeners gain health benefits from contact with the soil! I was drawn to the idea of developing work around this idea of forest-bathing which, seemed to fit with that resonant phrase ‘Still, quiet, ….. just to stand beneath a tree’.

My research led me to Nobuhiro Nakanishi’s ‘Layer Drawings’. The way light refracts through the glass layers and extends the work creating shadowy additions … all of which change according to the movement of the viewer past the work quite entranced me. This inspired me to want to experiment with projection, lighting and shadows.

From this series of ‘Shinrin Yoku’ works by Natalie L , I began to develop an idea of projecting lines suggesting trees onto a ‘forest’ of Kimonos. The Kimonos would suggest the idea of feeling wrapped up or embraced by the trees.

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