One of the few positive aspects of the Covid -19 lockdown was the chance to re-connect with the natural environment. Even within West Yorkshire, allegedly England’s least wooded county, we are generally able to find trees and woodland within easy reach of our homes. There, the hum of traffic was replaced by birdsong, the scent of wild garlic proved more pungent than exhaust fumes and the spectacularannualblue haze of bluebells providedrelief from our daily confinement within four walls.
Many artists were able to use their time creatively and unsurprisingly the local environment provided much inspiration. For Saltaire-based artist, David Starley,the local Hirst Woods did just that. Not that he is a stranger to painting trees – they’ve been the focus of many of his oil paintings over several years – but now they just seemed that bit greener, more beautiful and powerful than before.
Now that the lockdown has eased, David has joined with three other artists to present a tree-inspired exhibition at The Bingley Gallery. Another former archaeologist, Gavin Edwards produces wooden panels which combine the beauty of the grain with craftmanship and imaginative designs. Traditionally trained wood-turner Mike Bentley, loves to allow the inconsistencies and natural edges of the timber being worked to show in his finished pieces. For both artists there is a very strong element of recycling and sourcing wood sustainably. The final contributor is Sharon heap, who works in ceramics, but whose inspiration comes from tree leaves.
The show is accompanied by text which explores not only the remarkable biology of trees, but the close human relationships with trees and woodland; in the past, in the present but also looking forward to the future where trees face grave threats. Not only forest clearance, but a range of plant diseases and invasive insects threaten whole species. We need to encourage and protect them, not just as a leisure resource and wildlife habitat, but also because they offer at least partial solutions to the increasing effect of climate. In many ways we need these beautiful organisms as much as we ever did in the past.
David Starley is metallurgist, turned archaeologist turned painter and the current owner of the Bingley Gallery. His trademark style is heavy impasto application of oil paint with a palette knife.
“My aim is to evoke an emotional response to our environment through my art. My landscapes are not slavish depictions of the physical reality but attempt to capture the feeling of the location….. One of the most pleasing things that people tell me about my work is that they feel they could walk into the picture”
Gavin Edwards is a former field archaeologist and curator based in Baildon, who has now developed his enjoyment of working into a career in decorative sculpting of this material.
” Through my experiences as an archaeologist, and having worked with museum collections, I have come to appreciate just how much human material culture and technological development has relied on trees and the timber we extract from them. Our relationship with trees stretches back to the very origins of our species, but over time we found more ways to exploit the many properties of wood to make things as well as a material to provide heat and shelter. Whilst it is the physical properties of wood that we value the most, once you look at in more detail there is so much more to be appreciated. There is an intrinsic beauty in the fine detailing of the internal structures that are created as the tree grows, with many variations in grain quality and colour. It is this finer detail that really attracts my attention and which I hope to enhance through the way I prepare the surfaces, and by using very simple forms.”
Mike Bentley is a traditionally trained wood-turner with over forty years’ experience living near Huddersfield. Now retired, he donates the proceeds from his work to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
“I first took up turning as a teenager to meet my mother’s demand for lace bobbins. Initially these bobbins were produced using a lathe attachment for a Black and Decker drill!” During the time he has been turning, Mike estimates that he has made between twenty and twenty-five thousand lace bobbins and he has sent them to 4 continents.
Sharon Heap is a versatile artist working from her Yorkshire home and The Hive Studio in Shipley. Although she works in different media, it is a selection of her leaf-themed earthenware and stoneware that accompany this exhibition.
“Having been a keen painter for over 20 years, I decided to try something new and took up pottery about 6 years ago. I instantly took to this medium, hand building everything from pots to sculptures. I particularly enjoy bringing nature into my work as in the case of my leaf bowls. I spend a lot of time searching for leaves with the most interesting veins. Ceramics for me is very much an obsession and very therapeutic.”
The exhibition will run from 23rd July until 4thth October 2020.
Normal gallery hours are Thurs & Fri noon to 6pm, Sat and Sun 10am to 5pm
Please note that due to the Covid pandemic, precautions will be in place to protect the safety of customers, staff and our community.