Artist diary: The Madge Gill Co-Commission, part four

Julia Oak reveals how a book she had read a decade ago links with the name of her latest artwork

Enter These Enchanted Woods – November 19th 2020
Beginning of 10 metre drawing, white ink on black paper.

I first happened on this title when I was exploring the meaning of fairy tales and came across a book of this title by Arland Ussher And Carl Von Metzradt in 2010.
The title was taken from a line in the poem The Woods of Westermain by George Meredith 1828 – 1908

“Enter these enchanted woods
You who dare.”

Before I had even read the book, the preface got me thinking.
Padraic Colum wrote,
‘Cutting toe-holds for their bare feet, the searchers had to mount icy rocks. They came then to a forest of giant heather whose knotted roots were in a dark bog, and had to hew their way through it.”

This is my mind I thought, this is what I have to travel through to get to the other side.

But as the text went on Padraic Colum discussed how this was part of an account of a geographical expedition in 1957, the year of my birth. And how this type of description might now be considered to be too far-fetched and consigned to mythology or fairy tales.

Jumping forward 60 years I think of the Sat Nav and how dependant people are of it, so much so that my grandson set the route on his mobile phone’s in-built sat nav to his friend’s house before he started walking.

How will we treat people in 20 or 50 or a 100 years-time who navigate the route from A to B without such a device, will they be treated as having some sixth sense, an Extra Sensory Perception? Will people slightly distrust them or call them weird because they still use the senses, we have today.

This brings me to the conversation I have been having with Madge Gill on paper.

How can you talk to someone who is dead, I hear people ask?
Actually, it’s not the talking to people who have died that is the problem, I think it is something we can all admit to having done at some time in our life.
No, the problem is that the majority of people do not hear the reply. Why? Because we have forgotten how to listen, as we will soon have forgotten how to navigate without the input of an electronic device.

The drawing process helps me listen, takes me into a deeper silence were everyday noise is left behind. I draw without the intrusion of radio, TV or other devices.
My hand instinctively moves across the paper, my mind lets go of everyday stresses, and I enter a magical world as described by Padraic Colum, or as described in the poem by George Meredith.

The fear is not of the wonders of nature, but that once you have dared to enter this deep space, senses, that we once had and have forgotten how to use, will be reignited and we will be able to hear or see or feel those that once lived alongside us as we know today.
For me, the truth is, that they are always with us, we just have to remember how to listen.

As I continued the drawing, I thought I had chosen the title of the work, it was to be ‘Forests of My Mind’. However, as I relaxed into the drawing my hand was exploring the leaves of trees and I realised I was in the woods, and then I remembered the title of the book I had read some 10 years ago. I got up, went to the bookcase and immediately found it.
In my hand I held the title to my work and the reason it had to be called so.

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