In 2002 a call for visual material from artists by Cywaith Cymru / Artworks Wales (the National Organisation for Public Art in Wales) and the National Botanic Garden for Wales led to the selection of 11 Internationally recognised artists being commissioned to make temporary site specific work for the Garden. The exhibition Explorations opened in July 2003 and ran until November.
My response was to make a series of interventions. The success of Bound - the binding in white cotton of an ancient dead oak on the border of the farmers land and the garden - led me to investigate further several key issues. I was interested in the significance of boundaries, the nature of making work and for which audience, the effective but temporary transformation of the everyday, and the desire to connect with both the land and the people through art.
In 2003 I wrote an application to the Arts Council of Wales for a Creative Wales Award to pursue the project further and was successful. In it I wrote:
I used to be a city girl. Times change and the past four years of regular travel across Wales has drawn me inextricably to the country. Over time, quietly, almost unnoticed, I found myself woven to the land, developing a personal and deeper understanding of the countryside.
On journeys and walks I began thinking about the reference points that would once have served as markers for travellers and those defining their home and its boundaries.
Whilst not Welsh I found that Wales has entered my psyche and my spirit and I wanted to make a work which referenced and celebrated the land that supports me.
There are 13 old counties of Wales; Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire.
The project is to explore and to locate an ancient tree in each of the counties that can be wrapped and documented. The work develops previous ideas in which the commonplace, everyday and overlooked is re-presented to the viewer as an icon in itself.
For me the success of the first Bound in Carmarthenshire (as part of Explorations at the National Botanic Garden of Wales) was in its ability to reach and connect to the public. The stark, white elegance of this bound dead oak tree, an already much loved and revisited landmark in the gardens, drew the gaze and imagination of subsequent visitors. References were made to antlers, lightning, fungi, mummification and to swaddling. There was amusement and enjoyment. People were compelled to touch its trunk: no-one passed it without comment.
I am returning to the woods and trees that are by-passed by our road system, and in each of the old counties of Wales, identify and wrap a dead tree in an act of veneration and meditation on its (and our) past, present and future. It is important to be able to see the trees from the road or from a well-worn path so that the audience consists of those who live near to, or pass through, the area.
I can trace this work back to 1987 when I went to an exhibition on Japanese Packaging - Five Ways to Wrap an Egg - at Milton Keynes, and a subsequent trip to Japan in 2002 when white paper/cloth ties attached to bamboo poles outside of temples - acts of prayer 'spoke' to me.
For me, equal to the making of the work is the communication I make with the landowners or farmers. I enjoy meeting people and I have learnt so much from conversation, spending time in their company and on their land.
There is enormous scope in this deceptively simple project to research and collect historic information and to make very real connections to the land and to the local individuals we meet. Seasons and the quality of light change and lend themselves to a strong visual imagery that is documented. The work will be shown as a publication and as an exhibition to tour.
Through this project I hope to make a beautiful and effective temporary change in the environment, to make an artwork which has the ability to show the natural beauty in the world we live, and in what we may not have previously noticed.
Techniques: Making Bound
Key influences (other artists who work to effect change in the environment):
Christo and Jeanne Claude
More information on Philippa Lawrence
The project has been supported and made possible by an Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Award; with invaluable help from Andy Hazell on site; and photos by Gail Wigley, Alex Ramsay and Jason Ingram. At the time of writing (Feb. 06) the artist has completed 7 of the 13 trees and is looking for suitable trees in Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Merioneth and Pembrokeshire.
Sept 2006 update
Bound, Cardiganshire 2006
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Bound, Monmouthshire 2006
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Bound, Carmarthenshire, 2003
Bound, Old Radnorshire, 2004
Bound, Old Denbighshire, 2004
Bound, Anglesey, 2004
Bound, Brecknockshire, 2005
Bound, Glamorganshire, 2005
Bound, Montgomeryshire, 2005