Deep Winter Structures

There are certain times of the year in the Midlands of England and elsewhere when the heart quickens at the sights and smells of the season. In May, the flush of new seasonal awakening reaches its peak of vivid green, the air humid and heady with the scent of spring pollen. The verges of country lanes bristle with Cow Parsley and ancient woodlands are awash with Bluebells. By August, green has matured and transformed into golden hues with cereal crops ripe for harvest and late summer meadows awaiting their final hay cut. Late October explodes with autumn ochre, pale yellow and cinnamon brown. Morning mists linger and dare to trespass into the afternoon softening the landscaped with a wash of grey.

Trees have long been a compelling presence in many of our World landscapes, religions, economic systems, food supplies and so on. Most species if encouraged or left to mature dwarf us as they strain to reach the Sun. Assembled in woodlands or forests they draw us into an otherworldly place dominated by their presence with only the ground and filtered view of the sky providing a familiar context. Some sounds, like the call of a fox, become amplified, others, such as our footfall, attenuated.

With January comes deep winter. It is a time when, despite lengthening days, the land is dark; a place of contrasting, yet muted colours wet with drizzle or iridescent with frost. Broadleaf trees are, perhaps, one of the most vivid symbols of deep winter. Stripped of their leaves by autumn winds, they reveal an intricate structure of branches and twigs. They transform into wire like sculptures charcoal black against the sky. This is particularly vivid at sunrise and sunset when the contrast between the two is at its greatest. The heart quickens.

It is a sign of winter that only exists for the few weeks beyond final leaf fall until bud burst in early spring. The thin lines and angles of bare branches echo the jagged decorations on Bronze Age pottery. The towering scale of mature broadleaf woodland in winter is reminiscent of grand, Perpendicular Gothic architecture with its strong vertical lines and vaulted ceilings.

The origins of linear form, decoration and style in objects, architecture and art are diverse. It is a fusion of intuitive expression, symbolism and technology endowed with meaning, given focus and purpose by individuals and society alike. To some extent, it may be a response to experience of the environment, both natural and human influenced. In our time, there is a deep sense of recognition and connectivity with this particular geometric form and its vivid contrast when we contemplate a tree canopy high in the winter sky.


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