Friday night in the woods. I know, it sounds a bit dubious, but bear with me. Last friday it was worth it.
Artist Linda Johns currently has 9 artworks tucked away in Salcey Forest. Last friday she led an intrepid bunch of folks on a torch-lit walk around them. Wine was served in the car-park (both sensible and civilised) and, glasses in hand, we set off.
Some artists treat the great outdoors simply as an extension of the gallery. Less well organised, obviously. Regrettably littered with other, distracting, stuff. Fundamentally, though, still a place the primary purpose of which is to serve their work. Mercifully, Linda seems to take the opposite approach, seeking to serve, enhance the immediate (carefully chosen) environment of each work. Some of the pieces are so self-effacing, indeed, that even during the day you could walk right past them. Without the artist along you stand no chance at night, unless you’ve got a very powerfull torch and a lot of patience.
Most effective, illuminated in search-light torch beams, are the evanescent woven wire shapes – female spirits emerging from trees, swinging under branches or sitting patiently on a gully bank, waiting for the rains so she can watch the waters.
Strange photos, transforming a reflective, peaceful thing to something of fire and threat…Blairwitched by the rapidly fading light and my propensity for using a digital camera as a means of abstraction.
Further on down the path, a pale apricot, nearly full moon, gathering mists around her swelling belly. We stand and stare, and she’s utterly still, sucking you into her own pool of silence. Then, strangely, as we walk, she dances and flickers between the trees, climbing upwards into the night. At once solid and fluidly inconstant.
More strange photos, shining a tiny blue l.e.d. torch on things, and looking at the group looking at…
Thanks to periodic refills of wine (not entirely sensible, but very welcome), it’s been a lively, chattering progress, but we’re eventually silenced by the liquid, bubbling song of not one, but two nightingales. A rare privelage, and astonishingly loud.
Neither song nor (our) silence lasts, needless to say.
We talk a little louder, laugh a bit to remind ourselves of each other’s presence, warmth. An atavistic reaction to the dark spaces beneath the trees, pulling at the edges of our senses.
I find myself somewhat betwixt and between – quietened by the noisy, sucking dark out there, beyond the path, but still semi-conscious of the life and noise of the others around me.
Eventually the quiet wins and I’m emptied out. Scraped hollow by dark branches and palid trunks.
After everyone else has gone, I take a few moments on my own, in the car park – there’s something restfull about this empty feeling – enjoying long, slow breaths out into the night.
Too alluring, in fact. I don’t mind drifting for a while, but have no desire to get truly lost so eventually, a little regretfully, I climb in the car and drive.
One hollow thing rattling about in another down a narrow, twisting tunnel of light…all the way home.