STRUCK by Time and Nature

28 March – 8 April 2023

A 200-year-old tree from the estate of Lieutenant General Pitt Rivers has been brought back to life in a new exhibition, after being struck by lightning in 2011.

Struck by lightning and subsequently felled in 2011, this nearly 2 metre diameter direct mono-print of a behemoth Cedar of Lebanon tree reveals its sudden fate, and in doing so also locks in and reveals over 160 years of some of the most dramatic history of modern times

Artist and designer Jonathan Ford has long held a deep fascination with natural materials, using labour-intensive manual processes to create hand-crafted work in photography and print that celebrates the beauty and power of nature.

A chance encounter with the woodsman responsible for felling the colossal Pitt Rivers tree gave Jonathan the opportunity to create a new body of work using cross-sections of the famous cedar trunk, inspired by various direct printing techniques on to delicate Japanese washi paper and canvas. Each section of wood is laboriously prepared to enhance the grain, before being meticulously inked and impressed. Working with such delicate materials, even the subtle movements and pressure of the artist’s hands influence the outcome of each work.

The resulting relief prints are each unique, leaving a fractured surface from a historic tree which has dependably recorded the slow passage of time for over two centuries. Jonathan uses this visual representation of time to consider the human impact on nature, such as through global warming, glacial melt and deforestation, since the tree was first planted.

Over 160 years spanning two centuries worth of history has been hand imprinted and illuminated on to Washi paper revealing stories of time and nature.

“The impressions taken from the relief of these ringed surfaces remind us of the short- or long-term impact of past and significant moments,” said Jonathan, “some are fleeting, others the beginning of a longer shift. They show us where we as individuals have been on a collective timeline, and ultimately, where we could be heading.”

“I was nearly put off by the impossibility of the scale involved, but prior to lockdown I took receipt of several sections of the reclaimed trunk and pulled my first washi paper prints. It takes days to prepare and pull a single print, allowing the full history of this tree to be revealed. We can see the entire 20th century within it, what led up to it, and where the 21st century is taking us.” 

This exhibition brings together large-scale mono-prints and unique works on canvas with a number of limited-editions, each highlighting different aspects of human progression and impact alongside natural events. 

These captured tree rings reveal truths of the past, present and future, and only ask, what does it mean to you?

Working in his custom designed, Japanese inspired studio, Jonathan prepares each wood surface in different ways depending on the vision for the piece. Seen here preparing one of his giant Jenga Tower of Babel triptych series, the surface is being inked in two colours, one light and one dark, each ink with different viscosities. The final outcome creates a duotone effect and takes a whole day to produce a run of 5 prints.