Inside the Forest, 2019. Plaster, found materials – ash, burnt branches, metal cage.

In June 2019 there was the worst forest fire in 25 years in the Ribera d’Ebre region of Catalunya, burning over 6,000 hectares of pine, olive and almond trees. As part of a creative initiative entitled ‘Cendrart’ – cendra meaning ‘ash’ in Catalan – I was invited to create a site-specific work for a temporary exhibition within the cremated forest. The initiative was to raise awareness of the fire and to give support to the fundraising group ‘Rebrotem’ – meaning ‘we regrow’ in Catalan.

I focussed on what I witness here in the mountains of Catalunya within nature. The ability of the fig tree to regrow after destruction, whether through controlled farming activities or forest fire.

The weekend of the 5th and 6th of October of that year was an intense period spent moving between the burnt trees of the Maials area in the Ribera d’Ebre region, one of the most badly affected areas of countryside. Leaving my footprints within the deep ash floor, trying not to disturb the natural forms any more than had already been altered by the fire itself, I carefully placed 350 fragile plaster leaves, impressions taken directly from fig leaves which had dropped from a local tree.

The time spent in the forest was all-consuming. In the visual palette of greys and blacks, only the bright blue sky offered some relief. The fig leaves were a crisp, white, clinical offering to this place. However, with every movement and gust of wind, the ash soon filled the leaf veins creating a more beautiful nuanced surface. As if the leaves required this material to show them in their true beauty.

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