amy marshall
untamed forest
sustainable handmade paint on hemp canvas
85.0 x 105.0 cm

When I first started painting trees and forests as a student I was inspired by the forest paintings of Gustave Klimt and sought similar forest scenes for my own work: pleasingly vertical birch or pine trunks of similar size, a smooth carpet of leaves or snow in between, a horizon in the distance striking through the verticals. This kind of forest gives an appealing structure to the composition, and satisfies our inner architect.  

Our ancestors cleared forest undergrowth with fire to make hunting for game easier, and now timber management keeps many forests uniform, tidy, and easy to walk through. We have become used to this unthreatening aesthetic and I had been seeking it in my painting. However, biodiversity calls for the opposite: ancient, split, dead and dying trees are the very life of the forest. Many forest dwelling species - amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates - need rotting wood and cavities to survive. Between 10 and 40% of the world’s forest birds and mammals need holes in trees in which to nest or roost. A complex, chaotic and ancient structure is essential for the rich web of interdependent life, from the fungi in the soil, to the birds in the canopy. 

Here I have tried to capture the more natural architecture of a biodiverse forest: an old ash tree with four twisted trunks, a lush understory of ferns and mosses, and sunlight filtering through tangled and broken branches.