Samantha Boulanger

MA Fine Art

"Into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul" - John Muir

This work has been consciously created in nature, using both the traditional and more alchemical contemporary cyanotype techniques, which have been exposed to sunlight and encased in a veil of encaustic wax, framed by locally-sourced Oak.

This is a body of work that, like the Welsh phrase ‘Dod yn ôl at fy nghoed’, invites us to ‘return to our trees’, to deepen our connection to nature. Take a mystical journey into the Celtic Tree Ogham; resurrecting an ancient language allowing us to communicate and connect to nature, giving a sense of place and self. For me, working closely with nature, particularly forests, evokes feelings of other-worldliness and escape. Also, it gives me a sense of belonging, being suspended in time and space, whilst somehow being grounded at the same time, like the tree. The soul is being fed and nourished, creating a real sense of well-being, and a feeling of being truly connected and at one with everything.

The Celtic Tree Ogham (pron. oh-am) or Tree Alphabet is an ancient writing system created and used by the Irish Celts. The Ogham script is depicted using a series of notches or lines, referred to as ‘flesc’ (pron. flayshk) which means ‘twig’, these are spaced out along a main central line, often carved into wood, and standing stones. The letters are known as ‘feda’ (pron. fay-dah) which means ‘wood’ or ‘tree’. The twenty letters or ‘feda’ are grouped into four sets of five, these sets are called ‘aicme’ which means ‘family’ or ‘tribe’. The Ogham is usually read vertically from bottom to top.

Each letter or feda has an assigned tree, each tree has three levels: ‘physical, mental and spiritual’. The journey that can be taken through the Ogham grove starts with Birch, the tree of new beginnings. Firstly, you locate and befriend the tree, taking the time to sit near it and contemplate each of its meanings and how they may relate to you and your life. Once you feel you have digested its lessons and insights, you create a talisman from a piece of its wood. This is your connection to that tree. You repeat this ritual until reaching the final tree in the Ogham grove, Yew, the tree of transformation. You may also just find yourself drawn to a particular tree, this could mean that you are being invited to contemplate and work on its meaning and aspects within yourself and your life.