trees in the AiR (Artist in Residence)


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Tania Kovats        Tree

Well how about this for an opener….its pretty inspirational…the first permanent art exhibit at the Natural History Museum. The backstory is fab. Kovats was inspired by Darwin’s drawing to explain his theory of evolution, and it seems that as well as the theatre featuring large in my life at the moment, so are TREES (Did I mention I’ve just taken on an allotment? We’re going for an orchard – evidently you need 5 trees minimum. Take a look at this link later)

sketch book  – my tree connections

It’s just over a month since I’ve been doing my bit as Artist in Residence at Chichester Festival Theatre and I wanted to share some of my thoughts so far, as well as the imagery I have been collecting to reflect my time here.

The deadline is approaching to producing a plan of work for my exhibition at the theatre in the autumn. I have started to pull things together and make decisions on what to take forward, and what to leave behind in the file marked ‘pieces of work that were never realised!'(YES, that’s quite a big file if you’re an artist!….but the research and the drawings are great to do!)

I can’t get away from the trees surrounding the theatre and the impact that the theatre has on its’ environment. I have been reading about the tree of life, the tree of the world – Yggdrasil – in Norse mythology (thank you Gary Goodman) – and an amazing article about trees and their connection to each other (thank you Him in doors). I really want the book Are Trees Sentient by Peter Wohlleben now!

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So I am taking a LEAP (sorry Richard!) and going with TREES as a place to start to depict the theatre. Apart from the environmental situation of the theatre, right on the edge of Oaklands Park, and the fact that the building looks like a big concrete tree (it does trust me), I see the theatre and it’s community as a tree.

theatre = tree
See the source image
Can I talk to the trees?

Also I can’t help being influenced by my work with school children for ‘Thread Bearing Witness’ and ‘Finding a voice through ‘The Tree of Life” by G Hughes. Looking back, trees have been used on stage at Chichester rather a lot… trees it seems are everywhere. I even went to see a dress rehearsal of The Chalk Garden – and yes you guessed it… trees are there too……by the way don’t go down the rabbit hole there’s a lot of stuff about all of this  on the internet!!  I’ve been there and managed to pull myself wasn’t easy.  You have been warned!!!


Rather than explain in words here are some drawings from my sketch book which will hopefully help explain my thought processes…..

So basically CFT, I see you and your community as a tree.

The roots are the past. The trunk the strengths and things you are good at. The branches the people that are involved with the theatre. The leaves… well I’ll stop there you get the drift.

I’ve also been looking at ‘tribes’ of the theatre and how I might depict them. I’m looking at them as beetles at the moment – don’t ask – but it’s in a good way and I do tenuous links.

and from wiki….

Theatre or theater[1] is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience.[2] The specific place of the performance is also named by the word “theatre” as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον (théatron, “a place for viewing”), itself from θεάομαι (theáomai, “to see”, “to watch”, “to observe”)

this could also represent what goes on behind the face of the is about so much more than the shows..

I want to try to capture the performance and storytelling part of theatre in my work. When you stop and think about it, it’s all a bit weird: sitting in auditorium, looking at people on a platform who are pretending to be other people, and trying to make you believe that they are not themselves, and that they have an important story to tell. Which (when it is good), transports you to another world and makes a personal and emotional connection to you. This, dear reader, is what I hope to weave into my artwork. There are many things to decide – the exhibition is pencilled for September!

I’ve  been experimenting with eco printing (thank you Caroline Bell!) to create backgrounds to screen print on to.  Next stop is collecting leaves from Oaklands Park and onion skins from the  kitchens here to print on some cloth which I will then stitch into….  I am also giving thought to how I can create a community tree…it’s a work in progress so watch this space….there will be some community events in July where you can have the opportunity to come along and contribute to the art work..haven’t finalised the format yet…….just playing around with ideas… this space

sketch book community tree

“Everyone is an artist.”

reminds me a bit of  Allen Ruppersburg the never ending book

Ruppersberg the Never Ending Book





one out

 I’ve also been continuing to wander unfettered around the theatre….so sort of observing the ‘theatre as theatre’ really….. I am so lucky to have all this access…I love being a fly on the wall…wandering is so cool..It was fascinating watching the dynamics of a ‘change over’ in shows yesterday.

The Chalk Garden leaves and the set up begins for Me and My Girl. I watched a bit of rehearsal, missed the meet and greet as I was running around Southsea visiting cathedrals and mosques for… don’t ask that’s another life and caught a bit of a Youth Theatre workshop…fabulous!

I have also been admiring the amazing costumes for The Country Wife which I hope to see next week (as well as a back stage tour for the production. Thank you Jess).  You would not believe how busy the whole place is – perhaps I should be using ants instead of beetles. I think I am going to have to use artistic license tho ‘cos the beetles are more fun to draw!

Oh and I managed to make these in the prop department ….

look as good as the real thing……but are calorie and latex free

Other news up and coming exhibition..I will be exhibiting at  the oxmarket  gallery from the 13th of August for two this space……..

red tree helen sill
red tree helen sill mono print

PS  FINALLY last but not least ..The University of Chichester plans to close the Otter Gallery this autumn – where I am currently undertaking my Masters Degree in Fine Art. This is Chichester’s only free public art gallery with a permanent collection. Is this the thin end of the wedge for the future of fine art in Chichester?  Current planned exhibitions by Masters Fine Art students are shelved  – so I’m a bit sad about that to say the least. More info at     

If you wish to sign a  petition that has been set up to try to stop its closure and at least look at alternative plans for a permanent  gallery space… please go to  Save the Otter Gallery petition by clicking this link

and that is about it….off to make some more scones……..

PPS I’ve just bought my ticket for the V and A……can’t wait.    Well I can but you know what I mean!

PPPS So sad our road trip to Edinburgh is off Sarah but so pleased about your  Canada exhibition!

Panic* on the streets of Petersfield or thank goodness for Frida*

No blog for a bit as have been panicking! *The reason for the panic was all the stuff I needed to get ready for open studios, Petersfield Arts and Crafts and People of the Heath Exhibition. (Also been trying to negotiate a way back to uni and fit in visit to the Embroiderers’  Guild in my role as Education Scholar to discuss plans for  getting more stitch in to schools..all looking very exciting!!  More info in next blog! ** Frida (as in Khalo) is my sat nav who gets me from A to B….. I am now a sat nav believer…I used to be very sceptical but am now a convert!!! (With a little bit of help from Ken)

 Frida managed to negotiate my drops offs for Open Studios at Romsey and Owselbury smoothly and avoid the crush for Boomtown. Anyway two weeks ago I was in a bit of a tiz about everything so I did the only reasonable thing and  left home….went  to Gateshead for a bit..fab trip to the Baltic which had some great art on show .

Ida Ekblad – junk but presented interesting way

Tony Swain- great paintings and collage on newspaper

Fiona Tan – huge truck and great film set to sound of narration from Marco Polo travel will follow just losing will to live with downloading next time ay!

Pink Ladies
Pink Ladies

So panic over I have delivered to open studios…Christine Watkins..who will again have great eclectic mix of stuff on show this year including yours truly… I was so pleased to be invited to show there. Had a great chat with Christine who is really lovely…if you are  around Romsey please go and see her at  her house..drop in for cake and a cuppa you won’t be disappointed!!  (Christine and John Slade – the sculptor who works next door will even provide  a map to help you negotiate all open studios around Romsey.)

Each cell has a specific meaning
Cell Works

Then I whizzed over to Owselbury  to drop more stuff –at the Granary Studios..where I am showing with ‘Room 6’.  Another  great mix of stuff, tea, cake and demos.  ( Hoping to make it to the New Forest to see you too Sarah.)

As well l as being at Open Studios over the next couple of weeks  I am helping Lyndsay Taylor at her workshop for Liss in Stitches..where I will be her slave for the day.  I am also trying to pull together a children’s  entry for the Steep Flower Show…got all the bits just need to put them together now…oh dear!! As well as looking after the kids I think I may have bitten off a bit more than I should have but what the hey…..nearly finished my pieces for the Flora Twort and had a great few enlightening hours at Fishbourne Palace learning about the’ Ashling Hoard’ from Professor Stuart Needham..loving jewelry they recovered..they liked making necklaces, big rings and huge bangles…wonder why it interests me so much? HMMM? More fodder for my exhibits!

Sussex Loop, Bronze Age | The Sussex Archaeological Society

Prehistory collection Sussex Loops

Also managed to cram in a bit of camping  WITH POSH CRISPS….though rain hampered our efforts somewhat so we packed up early and came home.

Anyway I have definitive list now that I appear to be on top next???? Bring it on.

PS hope Cornwall was good Sarah and inspirational.  Really miss not going there this year x

PPS  Christine Watkins 2 Albany Road SO51 8EE

22 August -31 August  10.30 til 6pm

‘Room6’ the Granary Studios Owselbury SO21 1LU 22-24 August  and 27th -31 August

10am  til 5pm

Or visit Hampshire Open Studios at for more info  on all the great places you can visit between  Saturday 22nd August and 31st August 2015

Petersfield Arts and Crafts Exhibition  open on 27th August thru til  1st September 2015

People of the Heath Exhibition Flora Twort Gallery , Petersfield –opens  8 September til ?!