Being in the forest, in the midst of trees, contemplating their unique yet imperfect shapes and living structures. When our eyes focus on a tree’s bark, we perceive the incredible textures and the wonders of the lichens and fungi that grow on them. Zooming in and out in the woods or just in front of Anna Bower’s work is an inevitable and even addictive act.
Anna’s work begins with being immersed in the natural world and walking through woodland. Having a fascination with the varied forms of tree bark and with decayed leaves and rotting timber, she embraces the change that defines the natural world through her sculptural paper pieces.
Paper is the chosen material to reflect upon the growth, change, and decay concepts present both in the natural world and in her body of work. As the artist says, ‘paper has its own life cycle and I extend this cycle by using recycled paper for my artworks.’
Anna Bower: I describe these pieces as re-imagined fragments of bark. I have always been fascinated by the bark of different trees. When I go on woodland walks – an essential part of my practice – I collect pieces of fallen bark and I take photos of tree trunks or branches that catch my eye. When I return to my studio, I display the most interesting fragments to provide me with initial inspiration.
Bark as inspiration
Anna Bower: The aim of the series is to highlight the beauty of something that is so familiar that it is easily overlooked. In making these pieces, I reflected on the importance of bark – how it forms a protective layer that is essential to a tree’s survival and how it provides a habitat for a host of species. And, of course, my pieces are made from one of the most important products of trees, paper. I like the way that my works add another stage to the paper-making cycle…from seed…to tree…to a wood pulp…to paper…to artwork.
Anna Bower: Almost all my work is made from recycled paper. These pieces were made by layering multiple sheets of paper, which I then deconstructed through a process of boring, cutting, and sanding. I then work up to areas of color and texture. You will see that I have intentionally left some text visible on the pieces, hinting at their earlier life. The overall form of each piece is driven by the making process, without my having a clear conception of its final state.
I have been refining the technique I used to make these works over many years. It has several stages, and at each stage, chance plays an important part. Often this yields unexpected and interesting results, but, sometimes, this unpredictably means that pieces don’t work out. However, the beauty of paper is that it is flexible, and ‘failed’ pieces can often be reworked and repurposed.
Anna Bower: As with most of my work, this series caused me to reflect on the importance of being immersed in nature and the impact this has on our health and wellbeing. And because, for me, the creative process starts with walking, this is something I can share with my two children. My children are now enthusiastic observers and collectors – this makes them aware of the interconnected world of nature and it encourages them to think about how we need to protect our fragile planet.
Interview with Anna Bower | Photography Anna Bower