Inside this issue
Watchers of the Forest
Outdoor photographic land art exhibition
Photographer Gary Dawes has a very extensive and diverse background in filmmaking he is well travelled and self-taught and is now dedicating his time to still photography shooting personal work which gives him the creative freedom to explore and carry out his own ideas.
"Looker Watchers of the Forest' is the first land art exhibition of its kind to be displayed along the major oak trail at the reserve."
"Much of our conservation work here at Sherwood Forest National nature reserve is dedicated to the protection of our magnificent ancient Oak trees, which have survived for hundreds of years. They really have seen many things during the centuries, so Gary’s work provides a thought- provoking perspective, turning the tables on us the viewers or admirers of the trees to highlight a very topical issue for the natural world."
Jess Dumoulinm, Visitor Experience Manager, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.
I had the idea for Outsider for quite some time, in the autumn of 2017 I began working on my first outdoor photographic art installation which was for the grounds of Amcott House, a local museum in Retford Nottingham, which showed from Jan 3rd- June 30th 2018. Outsider is an evolving land art project which acts as a vehicle in which to experiment and explore various art forms, ones that I have never attempted before and which are outside of my comfort zone.
I can't work with the thought of being pigeonholed to any one particular practice, there is so much more to explore and learn about and I feel you just end up neglecting the others by just doing the same old thing. I also believe comfort is the death knell for creativity. Secondly, I wanted to bring my photographic artwork outside in a natural outdoor environment in the form of outdoor installations, and move away from indoor gallery spaces and being at the mercy of curators. There were a few ideas that I wanted to try with the original concept for the Land art exhibition at Sherwood Forest one of which was to hang the artwork from the trees which ran along the trail using fishing line and to use the branches of the tree as a part of the installation itself.
The reasons being was the lines translucent properties and damage limitation to the trees and for their strength. I liked the idea that from a distance the line would be difficult to see, so it would give the illusion that the pictures were being suspended in mid air amongst the trees. The picture frames I wanted in keeping, I wanted an alternative to the generic massed produced ones, so I created the borders for the pictures myself.
I set about and used my walks in the forest to scavenge for various organic materials which were either dead or rotting together with barks from cut down trees along with various other materials which included moss, lichen, leaves, pine needles, coal, goat willow seeds, burnt conker shells and rotting wood pulp. I have always found that nature never fails to bring something new to the table, either visually or organically. The picture frames I made double sided with a laminated print mounted on both sides which enabled the images when suspended from the trees to be seen both ways when either coming or going along the trail.
This original concept unfortunately for me was rejected, and instead offered the idea of securing the images to wooden fence posts that ran along the trail. That was something I really didn't want to entertain. I wanted to do something different which is what the Outsider project is all about. On the upside, having the artwork shown outdoors in such a beautiful forest, took the sting out of not having my original concept taken on board. That's life. You win some - You lose some.
From an early age, I have always been interested in art in its various forms and especially influenced by the philosophies of the Dada movement, I distinctly remember in my early teens going to see a Salvador Dali exhibition in London. I came across a piece at the show called Gala looking onto the Mediterranean sea which from a distance of 20 metres is transformed into a portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko).
I also feel a deep affinity with the natural world, and it has always had a place in what I do and that's something I try to express in my work whether it's in art, photography or film. That said I have no interest whatsoever in political statements. Visual or otherwise. Art and nature transcend politics for me. The Looker series is just a personal take on the situation regarding the demise and destruction of our trees. The Looker series is an observation of the trees eyes. Beautifully created by the trees themselves. Which ironically mirror the very problem. A Humankind.
Much of what I do is intuitive so when I'm asked to write about what I do finding the words is difficult. I am no intellectual by any stretch of the imagination, or academically trained, I'm self taught and have made my own way in life without any need for qualifications or degrees. The act itself of creating art in whatever form has always been at the heart of what I do. It takes me somewhere else. It's never been about money, winning awards or prizes. If it was I would have given it all up along time ago. For me personally it's about being an independent artist which gives me the freedom to experiment with ideas and to see where they go. That’s the prize.I am an individual that really doesn't feel I need someone qualify my work. I do it for me. It's just in my blood. I have spent most of my life in the creative arts and it has always been something that I love doing. I have never really looked upon it as work. It's not a career anymore. But more a way of life.
The outdoor exhibition can be found at the Sherwood Forest Major Oak Trail.
Sherwood Forest NNR, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, NG21 9RN.
30th May-15th November 2022