Christina Upmalis – Wales

“There is no mystery in this association of woods and otherworlds, for as anyone who has walked the woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of colour, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of a streambed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their colour rhyme in the eye-ring of the blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories, different times and worlds can be joined.” Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places

I have continued with my exploration of the landscapes around me, expanding on my walking practice of really observing and experiencing the landscape and look at the sense of belonging or connection to a place. As I walk, I become immersed in the landscape and am looking at how to gather direct imagery from those experiences with respect to the environment I am working in. 

Having become aware of the near extinction of the Menai Whitebeam tree which grows on the banks of the Menai Strait, I have researched further into the issues that this endemic tree faces and how the interdependent processes and balance of the natural world are being disrupted causing major and irreversible harm. The rising sea levels and weather events caused by global warming are observable along the shoreline of Nantporth Nature Reserve where the Menai Whitebeam grows. 

My research has included contacting the North Wales Wildlife Trust and meeting with the reserve officer responsible for the site for an informative walk through the reserve to identify the Menai Whitebeam tree and talk about the ecology of the woodland. I have also made site visits to take photographs, collect vegetation to work from and recorded my walks on a GPS device. Radio programmes, books and magazine articles on trees and the concept of the ‘wood wide web’ have been a part of informing my exploration into the wider ecological issues.

I have continued to experiment with various practical ways of creating sketchbooks during my walking adventures to record my multi-sensory experiences. The use of photography informs and supports my observations and exploration of a place.  During site visits I have made cyanotype prints, a slow photographic process and sketched in various medium. The creation of sketchbooks while on the move is an exciting way of finding a variety of ways to record my experiences that pushes me to experiment with what I can express and capture. I have worked with watercolour, acrylic inks and mixed media as a means of exploration and experimentation. experimented with various print making techniques, monoprint, relief printing, and drypoint.  I have incorporated found objects from my experiences and explorations of the natural word into my work.

Inquiring into contemporary landscape art practice has been an informative part of my research and has expanded my understanding of how artists such as Tania Kovats and Miranda Whall engage with the landscape and communicate their own experiences of the natural world through their art practices.  I have also been exploring the possibility of engaging in an environmentally aware art practice and looking into organisations that promote awareness of global issues through creative practices.

‘The main focus of my work is how art mediates and communicates our experience of what we call Nature. I think of Nature as a set of interconnected processes and systems rather than things or places. My work starts from subjective experiences and perceptions, it is an exploration of the Self. The space of particular landscapes helps me access a sense of self. All art works are acts of communication, but my first audience is that conversation with myself’. Tania Kovats