Being With Trees

24th March – 4th April 2020

Buckmaster & French – Fagus II

BEING WITH TREES brings together a contemporary response to trees by artists who live in urban and rural environments. These painters and printmakers are associated with two contemporary organisations: The Arborealists, which includes artists from the South West, South East, Yorkshire, London and Wales, France and Ireland, and the Urban Contemporaries, whose artists live in London.

BEING WITH TREES celebrates their shared love of trees and the vital role they can play in all our lives, in terms of our Well-Being, Identity and Sociability, and our understanding of Ecology and Climatic Change. As the author Hermann Hesse observed: When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. At a time of international anxiety about the existential threats of the effects of global warming, the role of nature and trees in the nation’s capital city has never been more pertinent. It has been estimated that we need to plant two billion trees, as soon as possible, in an attempt to avert disaster. This exhibition thus aims, with a political slant, to raise awareness of the importance of trees in the lives of Londoners. Themes and issues explored in this exhibition are: street architecture; urban decoration; ecological dimensions; wildlife habitats; the mythical, the allegorical, the symbolic; our psychological equilibrium and well-being; trees in opposition to/in harmony with buildings; depositories of history and bearing witness; unexpected trees in unexpected places; iconic and loved trees/nuisance and unloved trees/diseased trees; and boundary markers/noise excluders/ barriers against pollution. In fact the lungs of London!


Following the substantial critical success of Under the Green Wood: Picturing the British Tree 2013, at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, the New Forest, The Arborealists emerged from this exhibition. The art critic, Andrew Lambirth, wrote an illuminating review of the exhibition’s aims that appeared at the time to be so at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy. ‘Under the Greenwood ‘ included John Constable, Paul Nash, Samuel Palmer and Graham Sutherland, alongside such contemporary artists as Graham Arnold, Philippa Beale, David Nash and Michael Porter, whose practice gives trees, forests and woods a special value and who literally have developed new perceptions of painting and language.

The Art of Trees 2014 at the Royal West of England Academy, was described by The Telegraph asspellbinding’.

Buckmaster French – Ilex Aquifolium

Since then The Arborealists have had 16 exhibitions in the UK and France including ongoing site specific projects. In 2016, George Peterken OBE, forester, ecologist and author, invited The Arborealists to respond to the environment of Lady Park Wood near Monmouth, the only scientifically monitored unmanaged woodland in the UK.

In partnership with both National Park Authorities, since 2018, Arborealists have been working on Exmoor and Dartmoor, the results of which will be a major exhibition at the Somerset Museum. Another partnership on ancient British Trees with renowned author and expert on the subject, Julian Hight was recently launched. Until the end of March 2020 The Arborealists are exhibiting at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Aborealists’ publications include:

Under the Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree, 2013, Sansom & Company ISBN 0000002054;

The Arborealists: The Art of the Tree, 2016, Sansom & Co 2016 ISBN 978-1-908326-86-7 , including the essay by Dr. Angela Summerfield ‘Why do Artists Paint Trees?;

The Arborealists -The Art Of TreesP, 2017, Plato Beale Productions (in French and English) ISBN 978-0-9555510-5-5;

Drawn to London-Within the Shadow of the Tower, 2018, Plato-Beale Productions ISBN 978-0-9555510-7-9.

Essays in these publications share the artists’ passion for the ecology of trees and their significance in the conservation of our fragile, natural environment.


Urban Contemporaries is a fluid group of figurative painters aiming to explore different approaches to the concept of contemporary communities in urban environments. They create ambitious responses to the urban experience, responding in ways that are of interest to their individual practice. Using drawing as a starting point and painting as the common medium, the human figure in urban surroundings is a dominant motif. They aim to reflect the many varied ‘voices’ of contemporary society and create themed work that reflects upon the urban condition.

The invited artists from the Urban Contemporaries include Frank Creber, Melissa Scott-Miller, Michael Johnson, Ferha Farooqui. They introduce another kind of imagination, portraying the integration of trees into new London communities, and the varied effects of trees against regeneration and the ever-changing skyline. Work from these artists gives a symbolic, apocalyptic dimension to the exhibition.


Philippa Beale – John Blandy – Stella Carr – Annabel Cullen – Tim Craven – Alex Egan – Paul Finn – Buckmaster French – Kerry Harding – Julie Held –
Natasha Lien – Paul Ridyard – Nahem Shoa – Lesley Slight – Angela Summerfield – Peter Ursem  


Sharon Beavan – Frank Creber – Ferha Farooqui – Annette Fernando – Michael Johnson – Sarah Lowe – Michael Major – Elizabeth McCarten – Melissa Scott-Miller – Susanne du Toit – Grant Watson


Day Bowman – Gary Cook – Alex Faulkner – Elizabeth Hannaford – Karen Keogh – Ursula Leach – Pat Phippard – Angela Rumble – Rachel Sargent – Susan Shields – Les Williams