Woodcraft: The Art of Science

An art exhibition and installation of work by Robin Wilson and Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley, artists in residence of the University Woodlands at Wytham, to be held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History April-October 2012.

Project Outline

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At the request of Oxford Artsweek CEO Esther Browning and the University Museum of Natural History, an exhibition will be held of the art work produced by Robin Wilson and Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley in their current role as artists in residence at Wytham Woods.

The theme of the exhibition is an exploration of the myriad of ways of looking at a tree. During the project Robin and Rosie have been print-making with woodblocks made from Wytham wood. They also make linocut prints, sketches and photographs which document the passage of the seasons in the wood. Wytham has the unique position of being the most researched area of woodland within Europe as well as being enjoyed by generations of local populations including artists and writers. The aim of the exhibition is to immerse the visitors in the woodlands and to begin to understand it from the multiple perspectives of the many people who use it.

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The exhibition’s central focus will be on forty hand-made prints by Robin and Rosie. Using frames made of Wytham Wood and set in a large installation piece of carved stumps, poles and uprights from the wood, this exhibition will fill the upper gallery of the Museum of Natural History. Set around this central focus we aim to direct the visitor to a number of associated activities, which will include print-making workshops at the museum, walks and lectures in the woodlands by the scientists who work there (this will include a selection of practical skills including wooden bowls, charcoal, and other coppice products), and exhibitions by other artists working on woodland themes. A number of well-known local sculptors and artists have already expressed the desire to participate in the broader exhibition. We will include artwork from Primary Schools who utilise the Woods as part of the Forest School project, art from local Special Needs Groups, as well as tree-related work from the wider Oxford art community. The combined support of Wytham Woods, the Natural History Museum and Oxford Artsweeks will ensure the broadest possible outreach of this integrated bundle of woods-related activity, which the artists are locating conceptually at the boundaries of art, science and public understandings of the environment.

The main exhibition will draw on the extensive Wytham Collection of artefacts held at the Natural History Museum, and will cover scientific knowledge covering all aspects of the tree and the woodland ecosystem from DNA analysis to food sources for caterpillars and from measurers of climate change to simply being sites for bird and bat boxes.

We propose that the woodland-related events run in parallel with the Oxford Artsweeks who have suggested and initiated this Exhibition.

Contact details: Dr. Robin Wilson (artist): robin.wilson@hmc.ox.ac.uk or Nigel Fisher (Conservator of the Woodlands: nigel.fisher@admin.ox.ac.uk

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