Art Responding to Climate Change 30 March — 30 April 2010
Elementals was a mixed media exhibition of work by students from Burnham Grammar School and Burnham Upper School with the artists Rhonda Fenwick and Gina Martin, held in the new Flux Gallery at 93a High Street Burnham. The work is based on Burnham Beeches, the importance of trees and climate change issues. The exhibition was part of the official launch of the joint initiative between MONA LISA Arts & Media and Burnham Community Association.
The students worked with artist & film-maker Rhonda Fenwick and Sculptor Gina Martin and have carried out a number of workshops in schools and organised visits to Burnham Beeches. Chris Martin and Hannah Rose, Forest Rangers in the Beeches, gave the students introductory talks. These talks helped to give an insight into the life of the forest and its eco-systems, the different kinds of trees found there, how they are cared for, about the wildlife that inhabits the Beeches plus a brief history and how it is all managed.
The students were then shown the sculpture trail, which includes works by Gina, after which they walked through the forest with the artists and their art teachers Andy Holt and Dave Shoemark. The students were asked to make art with found objects in the forest inspired by the work of land artists Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long. They were also given factual information about the importance of trees and how they can help in our efforts to reverse climate change.
The Elementals Arts Project was initiated by Rhonda in December 2009 and as a response to a survey carried out by the Forestry Commission and was concerned with issues relating to Climate Change and the importance of trees. Some of the survey's findings are as follows:
Trees have a vital role in tackling Climate Change
Trees are good because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood
More trees should be planted
Cutting down forests made climate change worse
Different types of trees to be planted that will be more suited to future climates
In his article, The Lost Subject, in the Guardian 13th February 2010 Sculptor Antony Gormley writes: Western Culture has long positioned itself as distinct from nature. Now with climate change, he argues, it's time to rethink the purpose of art.
Trees play a vital role in maintaining the health of the planet. In particular, they are a vital tool in helping to combat climate change
Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it
Trees provide a place for recreation and improve the quality of our surroundings
Trees contribute to our own and our children's education and allow us to live a healthier life
Trees absorb harmful greenhouse gases
Trees form a vital part of much-loved landscapes
Trees conserve our world's biodiversity by providing habitats for numerous animal and plant species
Trees provide funds towards our economy, both directly and indirectly through tourism
Trees create soil protection and prevent erosion
Trees regulate water, limiting flood damage and drought, and helping to cleanse water supplies
Trees are renewable, biodegradable and recyclable
A special welcome from the Chairman of the BCA
Welcome to Burnham House Lodge, the home of a very exciting new partnership between local charity Burnham Community Association (BCA) and MONA LISA Arts & Media Community Interest Company.
Established in 1966, BCA has a long tradition of community service with a wide variety of sub groups, events and activities under its umbrella. Through our involvement with MONA LISA Arts & Media we can now look forward to further developing and extending our work in the community. We are delighted that Elementals, the first exhibition at the Flux Gallery, showcases the work of students from our two local secondary schools and that it has such an important environmental theme.
For many years BCA organised an annual Art Show in the village and so we are delighted to once again be involved in helping to promote art in Burnham. We do hope that you enjoy your visit to this first exhibition in the Flux Gallery and that you will become a regular visitor.
Marian Bunker Chairman, Burnham Community Association March 2010
ELEMENTALS PROJECT - TREES
Trees are important to human well-being; without them our lives would not be so enriched. Not only do we need them for our physical well being — how many materials and objects derived from wood do we use during our daily lives? — but also for our spiritual well-being; bright colours, blossoms, wild-life, sounds;Thomas Hardy said he could tell the types of tree he walked under at night by the sound the wind made through the leaves and branches, in his poem ‘Weathers’, he wrote:
'This is the weather the cuckoo likes and so do I When showers betumble the chestnut spikes and nestlings fly...
'This is the weather the shepherd shuns and so do I When beeches drip in browns and duns and thresh and ply...'
Trees can affect our moods and inspire writers, poets, artists and musicians; who are able to articulate, visually and verbally, what so many of us see and feel.
In his song 'The Oak' Steve Knightley sings:
'For shelter and shade has the oak tree grown The ship, the cradle, the hearth and home Arms so strong they hold the sky... 'Tear the branch and your crops will fail
Break the bow and your fleet won’t sail It cries when the black rain burns Trees die and the seas return'
It is sad to see environmental damage inflicted on trees by human activity 'when the black rain burns', the effects of climate change, 'Trees die and the sea returns' and the damage done to the habitats of endangered species through deforestation. So how important is it that societies care for and manage trees? Is this something aborigine groups around the world have a grasp of, but which more 'sophisticated' societies disregard in their lust for power and riches? To witness what becomes of those who fail to sustain the management of this valuable resource, we need look no further than Easter Island.
Therefore, the importance of this project in raising awareness of the value of trees and enabling young people to see first hand the significance of a well managed system to a community — both in an historical and contemporary context — is significant at a time when we are concerned about global warming and care for ecology.
For this reason, I feel the students from the Burnham schools have been fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in this project and, although I am not in a position to oversee the realisation of their responses to the theme, I am pleased to think I was there at the conception and that I leave a legacy for others to build on.
It is always important to impress upon art students the need to use good source material and to strive to work from primary sources; with the help from Rhonda and Gina we have been able to emphasise this further. I have often been amazed when students ask how to draw/paint a tree, that they are unaware of the different species of trees and how they look.They are often bemused when I suggest they should decide what kind of tree it is they wish to portray before they start their work — their response often being,'Well it’s a tree init?'. The images they produce are often stylised — not in a William Morris way, but as a left side of the brain response, rather than a right side of the brain response; I hope those involved in this project will now see trees differently.
The able, gifted and talented group (AGT) from BUS met with the artists Rhonda and Gina on a very cold December morning last year. Before leaving school for 'The Beeches' the students looked at and discussed examples of the work of environmental and installation artists, in particular the work of Andy Goldsworthy.
Using this as a starting point and armed with cameras at sketch books we were met by one of the wardens who gave an interesting but brief history of 'The Beeches', before setting us on a trail through the woods.
The ancient beech trees fascinated the students and the wintry conditions added to their eeriness, transforming them into 3D surrealist images in the style of artists such as Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.
After walking the trails the artists encouraged the students to create their own environmental pieces from materials found on the ground — this was an interesting experience for young people who had been used to more traditional materials to produce their art. However they were quickly into their tasks and the artists were soon photographing their responses with enthusiasm.
I now look forward to seeing photographic images of the work produced in this exhibition and, whilst no longer teaching at Burnham Upper School, I am pleased to have been invited to be a member of the committee that will drive this project forward. I look back with pride on the presentation the students gave at The Burnham Youth Centre, which helped secure funding for this project.They presented their ideas in a mature and articulated way, expressing their concern for the need for more arts opportunities for young people in the village; which are now beginning to manifest themselves through the Flux Gallery in the high street. It is pleasing to know that we have a gallery in which to exhibit work, that is warm, well-lit and welcoming and that we are able to build on the success of the three exhibitions we staged in the High Street and on the Trading Estate last year. I hope the art teachers in the Burnham schools will be able to take up the baton of what has been initiated and develop the work of the youngsters to the next level.
Dave Shoemark, (Formerly Head of Art at Burnham Upper School)
Elementals — Paper Sculptures
On a gloriously sunny day before the harsh winter snow arrived, year 10 students from Burnham Grammar School experienced the beauty of Burnham Beeches, accompanied by artist Rhonda Fenwick, they learnt of the important role played by trees. A few weeks later, students met with artist Gina Martin to discuss ideas based on images gathered from Burnham Beeches; and using the shapes, forms and textures they discussed ideas for creating paper sculptures.
The practical sessions with Gina began with an introduction to paper making, which the students thoroughly enjoyed; before planning and constructing their paper sculptures using various techniques. The project was a huge success, with students collaborating in their endeavours whilst learning how important trees are as a natural resource.
Andy Holt, Head of Art, Burnham Grammar School
My work is concerned with the creation of a sublime world that manifests in an ephemeral space between an art object and a spectator's experiencing of it; where art works come into being through the 'play' of others. How a work of art may come into 'being&apps; through imagination, and, also relates to our connectedness to Nature and how we interact socially with the world around us.
Through play and imagination we can create spaces, places and worlds. We can re-connect through our feelings and responses to the sacredness of our lives and our relationships with self, others, objects and the spaces we inhabit. My practice is explorative and experimental, working across media, through the mediums of painting, drawing, film, photography, combined media installation, environmental art, text and dance.
As a participatory artist I work in the Community, Voluntary, Public and Private Sectors using the arts as a vehicle to raise awareness, build confidence and self-esteem, social education, capacity building etc., working with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
Gina has a MA in sculpture from the Royal College of Art and undertaken an accredited course leading to an Advanced Diploma in Professional Studies in "Artists in Schools". She has exhibited Nationally and completed Public Commissions for clients such as S. Bucks District Council, British Waterways, the Lea Valley Trust and Learning Through Landscapes.
In my own creative practice I mainly work in wood and natural ‘found’ objects, both in the studio and in the environment in site-specific pieces. Not only do I use natural materials but also my inspiration comes from nature. It’s forms, shapes, textures, patterns, colours and the land itself.