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Into the Woods
This project, which occupied much of the spring of 2016, took its title from Stephen Sondheim’s musical, which I saw performed at Manchester’s Exchange Theatre. Our interests and purposes are different, but related. Sondheim’s inspiration is drawn from European folk and fairy tales; his interpretation framed by psychology; and his expression takes the form of drama. My inspiration was the experience of being literally in “the woods”. The work presented here is largely the result of two periods of “artistic retreat” spent in the vicinity of the Derbyshire village of Eyam. My response to these experiences might be described as “spiritual” (or perhaps even as “religious”, in the broadest sense), and expressed in the form of landscape painting. There are, nevertheless, several things we have in common.
“The woods” are places of enchantment, and they stand apart from the ordinary, everyday world. They can be a place of danger—at the very least to go “into the woods” is an experience of encountering otherness. As Sondheim points out, however, we all must venture, at some point in our lives, into the woods, in a figurative sense. Once there, we confront the threats they contain, and despite the suffering this might entail, return bearing the riches they hide, or enhanced as persons by the ordeal of being there.
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