Last week I bumped into a friend by the art building lift. She and I had studied the final year of the BA together and she was back for a quick visit. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. We exchanged the usual life updates first. Then she told me that she’d been in the building recently and had walked through the studios, had stopped to look at my work and had liked the still lifes. She added her response to them, which was that they had given her a weird sense of peace.
This comment struck me, and her words slowed down in the air as she spoke them, as this is something I had felt about my funny still lifes while sitting amongst them. I grabbed the words. I felt in them that uncanny response of the familiar. We had both felt the same thing. So I questioned her words. I wanted to know why she would have felt that way.
She pondered my question.
‘Perhaps,’ she mused, ‘it is because they are made of wood’. She was thinking that the feeling she felt looking at my wooden structures, sitting equidistant apart from each other, in the quiet space of the studio, was similar to the feeling you might get sitting in a wood, with trees equidistant apart from each other. It seems that the wood in the art and the wood in trees is the common denominator – trees give us a sense of balance and peace, my artworks do, they are both wooden. I liked this. I had felt this. This added a new dimension to my work.
Google tells me that spending time around trees and looking them has been proved to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve mood. Studies have shown reductions in the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the bodies of people surrounded by trees. This is common sense. I would be surprised if this feeling wasn’t universal.
Can art do this too? Can art made of wood do this? This feeling of balance both she and I had, therefore, isn’t a reaction related to the brush strokes, the representations within the objects, or the shapes or even the ‘essence’ I was trying to convey. This reaction is simply based on the underlying material: wood. I don’t mind. They cause a response. That is all I could ask for.