'Observer's Book of Trees', 2020, watercolour on paper, four pieces each 152x98cm.

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A copy of The Observer’s Book of Trees (1937, revised 1960) emerged from a recent clear-out of my grandparents’ home, and struck me as a poignant evocation of a generational difference in thinking. In it, nature appears categorizable and knowable. It is interpreted authoritatively within human structures. The Oak is ‘the patriarch of the forest’, the Ash ‘the Venus of the Woods’. In our current era of mass extinction and ecological crisis, we mourn the replacement of familiarity with nature by alienation, often linked to urbanization and digitization. But the book also presents an attitude of mastery over nature which is a major contributor to the problem.