Ellie Davies, born in 1976, grew up in an ancient forest in England – the sort of place where fairy tales, both dark and whimsical, are set.
Davies captures the mystery and intrigue of ancient forests by creating minimally disruptive woodland installations that transform the natural into the fanciful. These carefully constructed environments offer the viewer a nostalgic possibility of discovering something magical amidst the trees and shadows.
Davies works mostly alone in the woodland to become fully attuned and engulfed by the atmosphere of each individual setting. She performs small acts of engagement by painstakingly crafting and arranging her chosen materials within the natural world and then documenting her intervention with photography.
Painted leaves are positioned into paths enticing the viewer to delve deeper into the forest; golden trees reveal themselves within heavily saturated green and brown environments; strands of wool ephemerally create beguiling trails that jump from tree to tree; ovals of bright light hover within the panorama of the darkened forest floor; and dwellings created from fallen branches are stumbled upon – unsure of whether they were created by man or animal.
Her work is held in private collections in the UK, the US, Central and Eastern Europe, South Korea, Hong Kong, Russia and The United Arab Emirates.
– Artist Statement –
I have been working in UK forests for the past seven years, making work which explores the complex interrelationship between the landscape and the individual. Our understanding of landscape can be seen as a construction in which layers of meaning that reflect our own cultural preoccupations and anxieties obscure the reality of the land, veiling it, and transforming the natural world into an idealization.
UK forests have been shaped by human processes over thousands of years and include ancient woodlands, timber forestry, wildlife reserves and protected Areas of Outstanding Natural. As such, the forest represents the confluence of nature and culture, of natural landscape and human activity. Forests are potent symbols in folklore, fairy tale and myth, places of enchantment and magic as well as of danger and mystery. In recent cultural history they have come to be associated with psychological states relating to the unconscious.
Against this cultural backdrop my work explores the fabricated nature of landscape by making a variety of temporary and non-invasive interventions in the forest, which place the viewer in the gap between reality and fantasy. Creating this space encourages the viewer to re-evaluate the way in which their relationship with the landscape is formed, and the extent to which it is a product of cultural heritage or personal experience.
Throughout my practice small acts of engagement respond to the landscape using a variety of strategies, such as making and building, creating pools of light on the forest floor, or using craft materials such as paint and wool. The final images are the culmination of these interventions. The forest becomes a studio, forming a backdrop to contextualize the work, so that each piece draws on its location, a golden tree introduced into a thicket shimmers in the darkness, painted paths snake through the undergrowth, and strands of wool are woven between trees mirroring colours and formal elements within the space.