Work in progress - Silence Awareness Existence

I've been in Finland for two weeks now, staying at Arteles Creative Centre, which is formally a school house and library. The buildings seem to nurture the reading, writing and art-making of its artists in residence. And on our doorstep is the forest - a wonderful 'once upon a time' landscape blanketed in snow.

Kath Fries, Snow Forest, 2015, Finland

At first the thick snow hid any chance of discerning the summertime walking paths in the forest. However Teemu, who runs the residency, suggested we wouldn't get lost as long as we just re-traced our footsteps back again. So we entered the fairytale forest and explored beneath the towering birch and conifer trees, initially wading through deep snow that came up to our knees and sometimes higher. Teemu's advice of retracing our footsteps proved to be easy to follow, and over the next few days our confidence grew and our tracks gradually wore into paths across the snow covered forest floor. But when venturing off the tracks I'm still startled if the surface gives way beneath my feet in unexpected directions, often disturbing a concealed branch and causing the other end to spring up behind me - like a seesaw. These physical demonstrations of interconnectedness buried beneath the snowy surface intrigues me and I've began thinking about the narratives of various life forms surviving, temporarily dormant, under the protective layers of snow.

Kath Fries, Snow Forest, 2015, Finland

Walking in the forest, I often pause to listen to the quietness and look up to the tops of the tall trees. The trees' branches are laden with snow, not heavy enough to break them, but significantly weighing them down. Sometimes in the silence I hear a slight noise off to the side, as a tree branch shifts it's burden and a shower of snow patters down - the branch springs away finally unencumbered and released to reach towards the sky again. This often seems to be the only perceptible movement in the quiet still forest. My initial experiments with mark making in the snow, echoed the tree branches shaking off their burdens. I gently spiralled small birch saplings around, releasing their snow coats and forming little tunnels in the snow surrounding them. 

Kath Fries, Twig tunnels, 2015, Finland
Kath Fries, Twig tunnels, 2015, Finland

Exploring beyond our regularly trodden paths, my limbs would often fall through the top layers of snow. Causing the embodied realisation that  we humans are unbalanced for this kind of terrain - ungainly walking on two legs, compared to the animals spreading their weight more easily across all four - their tracks across the snow blanket always look lighter, quicker and easier. I'm interested in how our bodies and senses engage with our surroundings, and there's something interesting about these repeated actions of my hands and arms, feet and legs reaching into the snow, grasping, reaching, falling and tunnelling. My next snow experiments involved using my hands and arms to create burrows in the snow,  forming interconnecting tunnels by reaching into the snow from two sides so that my hands met in the middle, hugging the snow. The resulting forms reminded me of rabbit warrens, with multiple entrances and exits.

Kath Fries, Snow burrow, 2015 Finland
Kath Fries, Snow burrows, 2015 Finland
Kath Fries, Snow burrow, 2015, Finland
Kath Fries, Snow burrow, 2015, Finland

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,