Tree Turns and Returns

Tree Turns and Returns is a unique land art installation crafted to portray a story of revenge and avenge through human and natural elements.  This was the first major work on Land Art Farm – sparked by a dramatic storm in January 2012 that dropped a large and heavy eucalyptus tree on to a typical Aussie tin shed.

Tree Turns and Returns 9.2013

Tree Turns and Returns 9.2013

“Installation art [is] an artistic genre of three-dimensional works that are often site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space. Generally, the term is applied to interior spaces, whereas exterior interventions are often called land art; however, the boundaries between these terms overlap.” Wikipedia

In museums and and public spaces, installation materials are often plastics, cardboard and paper refuse, glass, styrofoam, and collected items.  The weight and unwieldy mess of natural materials – such as a full-size tree – set  practical limits on use in museum installations or other indoor spaces, with occasional exceptions such as Giuseppe Licari’s grand piece ‘Tree Roots as Art Installation’.

Tree Turns and Returns creation. With wild weather, the essence of a substantial land art piece can suddenly emerge!  After days of heavy rain, then stormy wind gusts, the hefty gum tree that had been standing for decades almost unnoticed among others, crashed down onto the constructed garden picnic area.

The huge weight crushed the tin shed and cast iron equipment within, and splattered a neat brick wall. The trunk, branches and masses of leaves spread nine metres across the yard and grass. A total mess most people would, and did, say – and it was. However, I could see, even from my first askance look, an artistic quality and drama in the wreckage.

Over summer and autumn the leaves dried and browned, and the time came to address the challenge. Two men with the biggest chain saws worked for days to separate and piece cut the long branches – rather amused by my insistence the tree trunk and the crumpled shed with its intriguing dark spaces were staying just as they were. Their efforts produced hundreds of cut pieces and some were stacked for next winter’s heating fires.

Most though went toward the installation, depicting – if you like – a symbolic tale of the tree’s revenge and human avenging and nature recovering, a form of land art fable …

Here, the sweeping tree had been built in, required to stand alongside the man-made structure for a quarter century. One day, the tree, aided by water and wind, turned, crashing its mass onto the flimsy tin and the neat brickwork. Humans, concerned by disorder, work to tame and tidy the natural confusion, assisted by machines, fire and ingenuity. Parts of the great tree are taken away, parts are ordered and restructured in the human way, a contrast to the shed ruin and the broken bricks and cement running silver like blood. In time, however, nature will reclaim this art work. Leaves and twigs will collect, grass and ivy will grow through the flowing pile and the stacked wood wall. With some of its roots still in the earth, the tree itself could bud and return, though never as the same.

Tree Turns and Returns works, I believe, as a multi-element Land Art piece, with or without the story. It is site specific, of the land, has Contrast, Scale and Repetition, and some drama through impact, movement and the changes of time. It even makes noise – fine scratching and squealing of the shed panels in light winds, loud booms when there is a gale!  Sandra Welsman

Art and Time … update 12.2014.  The hot, dry 2014 summer and then the winter cold have weathered Tree Turns and Returns. The wood pieces are drying and shrinking, the bright oranges fading to browns. Grass and ivy are growing through the work though slowed by the lack of rain. To me, the land art work has claimed and settled into its space, an ongoing, embedded bold and disorienting statement that affects many viewers. (click any picture for enlargements in gallery form)

Variations

Giuseppe Licari Tree Roots as Art Installation. “The installation raises questions about the relationship between man and nature, of growth and decay …”.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Eucalyptus, Falling Back to Earth 2013, Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane. Site specific installation.

Matti Braun, Gost Log, 2012, Arnolfini arts centre Bristol.