Dreaming in the Garden

In Process by Alun Kirby

I find a lot of inspiration in our small garden.  Most of my cyanotypes over the last 5 years have used subjects taken directly from the spaces outside the front and back doors.  One series which has been developing over the last couple of years has been the Dream Trees.  Sometimes, a small part of a plant reflects the whole beautifully.  Sometimes, the image reflected is a whole new organism entirely.

This was originally part of a sweet pea.  It fell beautifully into place on the paper, and becomes a strange tree instead of a small flowering plant.  Something I’ve seen in the science fiction writing of Iain Banks.  This pale tree stands delicately against a dark background.  It will be exhibited at The Great North Art Show in September this year.

This ‘tree’ is a leaf from another flowering plant, not a tree.  It is the shape, and the relationship of ‘trunk’ to ‘canopy’ that seem to work.  It is, perhaps, a personal view, an individual imaginative interpretation….  That’s the mood sunny days in the garden elicit, squinting at things once familiar, and day-dreaming of something altogether different in scale and structure.

‘Whispey poplars’ are a recurrent theme around the Yorkshire countryside, lines of them standing alone on the flat plains of the East Riding and the Vale of York, defying the winds by bending with it.  These trees are reminiscent of the poplar shape, if a little ‘well’covered’ to be truly whispey.  They were once eucalyptus, thick and green, and utterly determined to prevent any light from reaching the paper beneath them.  Day after day in the sun, and still no detail emerges, and so I accept them as they are, and they are all the better for it.

Another leaf transformed, this time into a huge, leaf-bedecked cloud of a tree.  There is a strong wind blowing from behind, bending the top branches and revealing a shimmering underside….


I want this tree in my garden.  It has the appearance of topiary, but it is all completely natural.  Several strong limbs hold aloft bulbous balloons of branches and bracts.  Imagine the root structure needed to keep it from just lifting off and floating away into the sky!  Another one from the Iain Banks book of horticulture.

Trees in the real world suffer from gravity and other physical phenomena which require them to be sturdy, to have trunks of sufficient girth to prevent their demise through snapping in the lightest breeze.  Dream Trees have no such restrictions.  These saplings and their parents ascend on the spindliest of supports, yet sprout a capacious canopy of which they can be rightfully proud.  A tree for an arboretum setting, perhaps.

This last group of seemingly stumpy, apparently leafless trees are derived from the crispy sheaths which protect new bamboo shoots and are shed as the shoots rise rapidly to meet their siblings.  I like the contrast of the tall, elegant, swaying host to these robust, squat, powerhouses.  In this world, these would not be trees, but mere stumps.  The aftermath of humankind’s necessity, the leftovers of a forest robbed of it’s population.  Better, then, to see them on another world, as massive trees whose stature instills not opportunity, but awe.

Awake, perchance to dream… to daydream! And dream of trees….  To conclude, the words of a York author…

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relishW. H. Auden