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Trees in the limelight

Trees in the limelight – a major new exhibition of trees in contemporary art at Black Swan Arts in Frome will feature work by 43 Arborealists, some of international reputation, and six guest artists, as well as the painter Paul Nash.

The show will be the largest exhibition the group has staged to date. United by their subject, the Arborealists employ a diverse range of working practices: scale, medium, philosophy, style and technique. The results are, by turn, dramatic, contemplative, expressive, abstracted, hyperreal and surreal. The work demonstrates that trees still have a deep relevance in contemporary art and retain their power to move us all as a vital element in our landscape, lives and well-being. This exhibition reaches far beyond an arts audience.

In Britain, trees as a subject have inspired artists from Gainsborough and Constable through to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Neo-Romantics and the Ruralists. Piet Mondrian and Victor Pasmore used the tree as a device to create abstract art, and Paul Nash famously stated that he loved and worshipped trees and believed they were people – as beautifully demonstrated by his work in the show.

Trees provide a wonderfully versatile subject for artists, not only in terms of the rich variety of character, form, texture and colour, whether individually or collectively, but also in terms of the wealth of association they have come to embody over many centuries through myth, folklore, religious and symbolic significance.

The Arborealists were founded in 2013 by artist and curator Tim Craven following the seminal exhibition ‘Under the Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree’, staged at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, in the heart of the New Forest. The Arborealists are a loose association of some 60 professional artists of diverse art practice who share the subject of the tree. There are no rules and no subscription. The group is far flung, with members from Wales and the borders to East Anglia, London and every southern county from Kent to Cornwall. Outposts include Yorkshire, France, Italy and Ireland.

The group enjoys a national profile and have already staged nine acclaimed exhibitions in the UK and France, with many more planned for the future, including site-specific projects. They have also produced two illustrated publications to complement the exhibitions.

The guest artists include Ashleaf of London, Gary Cook, Jennifer Newbury, Emma Tuck, Clive Walley and Jim Whitty.

The preview evening will take place on Friday 20th July from 6–8 pm – everyone is welcome to attend,

A series of events will be running alongside the exhibition, including an Arborealists show preview presentation with Tim Craven on Monday 9th July at 6pm (as part of Frome Festival), an Arborealists Q&A session on Sunday 5th August from 3–4pm (during Frome Independent Market), as well as ‘In Conversation with Julian Hight’, author of ‘Britain’s Tree Story’ and family-friendly workshops. For more details visit www.blackswan.org.uk or contact the office on 01373 473980.

‘The Arborealists and Guests’ at Black Swan Arts will be open from Monday to Saturday, 10am–4pm. Entry is £3, £5 for 2, under 18s free.

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