Imagination can run wild in the wilderness, even if its contours present elements from the familiar to draw from. In the lush, dark forest, silence can be deafening and the vast unknown can give birth to a realized, fictional narrative that seems familiar in one’s remembered past. In the New Forest, south of England, fine art photographer Ellie Davies would play hide-and-seek as a child with her twin sister Rebecca, not knowing that the forest’s landscape would later become her studio and inspiration.
At Crane Kalman Gallery in London, Davies’ new exhibition, “Into The Woods,” includes work from her new series “Half Light” as well as her earlier bodies of work, such as “Stars,” “Between The Trees,” “Islands,” “Come With Me,” and “The Gloaming.”
Born in 1976 and having graduated from the London College of Communication in 2008, Davies has exhibited across Europe, including the prestigious Arles Photo Festival in France. The forest being the center of her memories and now artistic practice, Davies’ understanding of the landscape is not new or forced. Having spent seven years in the forests of the UK, apart from her childhood adventures, she responds to the landscape by not just living in it, but also altering it with a series of temporary interventions as part of her photographic practice. In “Half Light,” she wanted to reconnect with the wilder landscapes of her youth. “I wanted to discover if those remembered and imagined places can be found and captured again,” says Davies. Working with the fluidity of the photographic medium, Davies added the element of water to the forest (as a dark, still river) in an attempt to separate the viewer from the twilight forest and lend the land more consideration. The resulting work is both obscure and revealing. That forests are key to folklore and myth is at the core of this series, often letting the viewer draw from their own memories to weave a new narrative.
In “Stars,” Davies photographed the New Forest, her childhood haunt and then layered the images with starscapes produced by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The photographs are enchanting, as the Milky Way, Omega Centauri, the Norma Galaxy and embryonic stars in the Nebula NGC 346 appear in the middle of the forest like scattered stardust, offering an immeasurable potential for exploration and experiencing the profound otherness of this silent landscape. The “Come With Me” series is more interactive, as the viewer is led by Davies’ intervention (constructed pathways in the forest) playing out the classic tradition of landscape painting’s role in the creation of myths and legends. Apart from offering imagined mysteries, her work also poses poignant questions about man’s intrusion of the natural landscape and her constructed elements bring to light the desirable past of an untouched terrain.
“Ellie Davies: Into The Woods” will run from July 21 to August 20, 2016 at the Crane Kalman Gallery, London