Coppice 6.0

Coppice 6.0 is on exhibition until 20 February 2021 at Grace Cossington Smith Gallery, Wahroonga as part of Forested A suite of new works by Sydney based artists, Jan Handel, Melinda Marshman and Lisa Woolfe. Each artist presents new works made in response to the practice of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing, a practice originating in Japan in the 1980s. Shinrin-yoku refers to the concept of being in nature and connecting with it through the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.


Forest Bathing came to my attention several years ago around the time I read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Or, Life in the Woods and saw the 2016 documentary Call of the Forest: the Forgotten Wisdom of Trees by Canadian scientist and author Diana Beresford-Kroeger. After researching Forest Bathing I became intrigued and slightly disturbed at the plethora of ‘how to’ guides and the discovery that one could attend a ‘forest bathing workshop’ where participants are guided in how to slow down, switch off and connect to the natural world. This tapped into my ongoing interest in our complex relationship with the natural world: our desire to protect it on the one hand contrasts with our tendency to keep the natural world at a distance, see it as separate from us, and at the worst attempt to dominate it.

Coppice 6.0 is constructed from both man made and natural structural materials, some of which are employed to keep nature out. The format asks the viewer to pause reality for a moment, leave our human centred view of the forest behind, engage with our animal senses and imagine taking a ‘birds’ eye’ view of travelling amongst and above the tree-tops and its messy tangle of wildness.

Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness -- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. …... We can never have enough of nature
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods