Reflecting under the Birnam Oak

On Saturday night I enjoyed a rare “night off” which ironically was ever so slightly a  “busman’s holiday” as I spent it in Birnam Wood. On this beautiful sunny evening, however, I was not foraging or collecting specimens, or peering down my camera (well perhaps just once or twice!)…I was there to see an open air performance of Macbeth by the Oxford Shakespeare Company from New York, under the majestic Birnam oak. CjySVNSUkAAx4L8



It actually seemed a really fitting way to celebrate the culmination of my work for the past three years. Not only because I had just completed a site related project about Birnam Wood, but also because of my deep relationship with nature. As I gazed around me, I saw stinging nettles, white deadnettles, bellflower leaves, red campions and the deadly monkshood. Amid the strong voices of the actors, I heard the ever present birdsong…the “elevator music” of Birnam Wood which always accompanies me whatever I am doing there. I smelled the wild garlic, now in flower, as well as the sweet aroma of aniseed from the cow parsley, which contrasted with the pungent odour of herb Robert.  Would I have known the names of any of these plants three years ago? Would I have considered using them to make artworks? Very doubtful!  Looking up, I saw the lush leafy canopies of the giant trees towering above me, their branches dripping with oakmoss and usnea lichen. I even noticed some pale yellow fungi growing up high on the Birnam Oak. I would never have dreamt that I would have fashioned a top hat out of lichen, or created artworks using bacteria grown from fungi found in this wood.

For me, the MA in Fine Art has been a life changing experience…It has opened my eyes to the world around me, both visible and also invisible. It has allowed me to study a discipline which I wanted to study twenty years ago , but was channeled into studying illustration instead. The beauty of this course has been the freedom it has allowed me – to pursue what I find interesting or important to me.  I have rekindled a love affair with photography, which I hope to develop further by experimenting with different types of camera and techniques. I have become smitten with microscopy, and want to purchase a field microscope like Dr Simon Park’s model, so that I can play around more with microbiology. I have become an explorer searching for weird and wonderful species, which I want to show to all the world. I have also enjoyed the challenge of creating pieces of contemporary art with a concept behind them, instead of my previous passion for abstract printmaking or painting, which, although aesthetically attractive, had no deeper meaning or purpose to them.

I have become an Amazon shopaholic, and spent a small fortune on lots of great books about contemporary art, science, landscape, Romanticism, photography and optical devices (as well as some which in hindsight weren’t so great). I have loads to read about more deeply, and look forward to reading them more slowly rather than skimming pages to get to the juicy bits.

I feel that I have become much more confident in talking about my work and have a much wider knowledge of both the contemporary and historical art contexts. This has also had a positive impact on my teaching, as I feel that i can impart some of my knowledge to students, and direct them to artists who are relevant to their individual areas of study.

Finally, I have been privileged to meet some wonderful, creative and supportive artists from all over the world. My course lecturers, Caroline and Angela who have been key to all of my progress throughout the course and have been ever encouraging and inspiring throughout.. Some other very inspiring guest lecturers; Les Bicknell, Emily Speed, Lucy Day, and last but certainly not least-  Michele Whiting, who was very helpful during my final project.

My cohort have all been amazing- interesting individuals all with very different lives whom I feel  have bonded together really well. Through our Facebook page, any queries or problems I had were responded to swiftly with advice, information or empathetic messages – a great level of support from all of them throughout. I hope we will all keep in touch through the same Facebook page, and hopefully have some further exhibtions together internationally. Although the end is nigh, I feel that this is just the beginning of a very exciting future of which art will continue to be a major focus.


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