Of Sylphs and Shadows

Vestiges, David Marshall Lodge, 2012

Scottish artist Rob Mulholland‘s work touches on Man’s relationship with Nature in many ways, but for me the most essential is the most literal.  At our very best we reflect the beauty of our environment, in the same way that we are said to reflect the divine.

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples…

-John Muir

Mulholland is intrigued by people’s desire to leave a trace of themselves on that same environment, seeing it simultaneously as a driving force of creation and destruction. A hundred years ago the wooded landscape of this particular installation was rolling hills home to small-scale sheep farmers.  The country’s desperate post-war need for timber forced the relocation of the farmers and the planting of fast growing conifers.  The  landscape still bears the marks of its previous pastoral use, with faint outlines of the farms and settlements.

Mulholland writes:

The six male and six female forms represent a vestige, a faint trace of the past people and communities that once occupied and lived in this space. The figures absorb their environment, reflecting in their surface the daily changes of life in the forest. They create a visual notion of non – space. A void as if they are at one moment part of our world and then as they fade into the forest they become an intangible outline….The reflective figures ask us to look again and consider the symbiotic relationship we have with our natural and man-made environment.

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