Silence Awareness Existence - open studio

Kath Fries, Forest sky snow, 2015, video projected onto snow

On Monday evening I projected video footage onto the snow covered hill outside my studio door at Arteles. The video was initially recorded in the forest looking up to the sky with the wind blowing in the bare branches of the birch trees. So this installation took part of the forest inside via the video projector, and then sent it outside again through the window. I stood outside with a few of the other resident artists to watch it, and just within our peripheral vision was the actual forest, we could clearly hear the wind whistling through the trees around us.

Kath Fries, Forest sky snow, 2015, video projected onto snow

Inside my studio there are wonderful big windows that look out onto the countryside and let in the natural daylight as it reflects off the snow. The walls have insulating fibrous rope stuffed into the cracks between raw wooden logs, which seem as if they were originally harvested from the forest right outside the door. I've been collecting pieces of bark and sticks from my walks in the forest and bringing them indoors to my studio, in a sense this is also bringing my tactile personal experiences of the forest inside. The building used to be a school house - there's still an old backboard and chalk in my studio, adding to the sense of layered narratives in this place. I found a long scroll of blue paper in one of the cupboards and used the blackboard chalk to do a rubbing of the log walls, as the walls seem to be a touching point where these internal and external worlds overlap. The walls and windows are the boundaries and meeting points for the wild forest and severe weather outdoors outside and the sheltered, warm safety inside the buildings. And as the studio also includes my sleeping area and bed in one curtained off corner, it is also a site where dreams, imagination, fears, reflection and rational reality sit closely together. 

Kath Fries, Arteles studio installation, (detail), 2015, chalk on paper and video projection.

Sara Maitland, in her book 'Gossip from the Forest', writes about how frequently forests are the setting for fables and fairytales. This resonates with how we feel about forests even today "...the forests that remain are strange and wonderful places with rich natural history, long narratives of complex relationships – between humans and the wild, and between various groups of human beings – and a sense of enchantment and magic, which is at the same time fraught with fear… ‘Once upon a time’, the stories would begin [with] no particular time, fictional time, fairy-story time. This is a doorway; if you are lucky, you go through it as a child, aurally, before you can read, and if you are very lucky, you become a free citizen of an ancient republic and can come and go as you please.” (p16-18)

Kath Fries, Arteles studio installation, 2015, video projection, chalk on paper, stick and bark

For Wednesday's open studio afternoon, I projected this video footage on the curtain and chalk rubbed blue scroll in my studio, next to an installation of birch bark on the log wall. The bark installation sits within a doorframe of a door that was closed up and sealed off when the building was converted from a school into studios. Like a mysterious portal into another place and time, and now covered in birch bark, this space seems to be a fairytale passageway into another world.

Kath Fries, Birch bark doorway, (detail) 2015

Birch trees, along with conifers, dominate the forest here and continue to be used widely in building houses, making furniture and kitchen utensils, gates, fences and for fuel. Traditionally birch bark was also used to make rope, to smoke and preserve food and for tanning leather. The sap was used in medicine, gunpowder and alcohol. Birch trees are silvery, elegant and graceful in appearance. They have traditionally been thought of as magical trees, often symbolising the goddess of the forest. "Druids claimed them as the sister tree to the oak; witches’ broom sticks were traditionally made out of birch… [as] were maypoles.” (Sara Maitland, 'Gossip from the Forest', p49)

Kath Fries, Birch bark doorway, (detail) 2015

Arteles conclusion presentations and open studio afternoon, 25 Feb 2015

My participation in this residency has been made possible with the support of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust, supporting Australian emerging artists to develop their skills and gain experience through international professional development opportunities,, and NSW Artists' Grant Scheme, an Arts NSW's devolved funding program administered by the National Association of the Visual Arts on behalf of the NSW Government,