Exhibition: Of Foresters, Farmers and Fish – Tales from the Wildwoods of the Old and New World

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To societies in the modern world, trees and woodlands have come to embody a physical, and in many cases, emotional or even spiritual link to nature.

They are often used to symbolise the fragility and beauty of the natural world, and the urgency of moving to sustainable ways to live. Concepts such as human loss, growth, regeneration and renewal often use tree-like metaphors, and those responsible for the custodianship of woodlands, arboreta and botanical gardens are seen as guardians of a
collective past, of the present and a hope for an increasingly uncertain future.

This is further underscored by the recognition that the Earth’s forests are an important producer of
oxygen and regulator of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and that large-scale deforestation has
been an important factor in the long-term warming and cooling of the planet. The perceived role that
woodlands play in so-called “ecosystem services” is now seen as an integral component of the survival
and quality of life on earth. Important roles include flood mitigation, soil and water conservation,
carbon capture, air quality in cities, protection of biological diversity of plants and wildlife and the
mental and physical wellbeing of humanity.

Botanic gardens and arboreta around the world have been focussing on plant conservation programs,
sometimes for rare and threatened plants, but also increasingly by participating in seed storage
programs to maintain plant diversity worldwide. Botanic Gardens Conservation International has been
pivotal in such work and has involved over 400 botanic gardens worldwide in developing such seed
banks. Significant botanic gardens’ collections developing seed banks include the Millennium Seed
Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and in Australia, RBG Sydney and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical
Gardens.
The relationship of humans with their “wildwoods” has always been complex and nuanced depending
on where they live – in urban or rural environments – and their livelihoods and economic status.

Historically the economic uses of plants and timber have been central to human thinking.

This international art-geoscience print exchange explores these culture-nature ambiguities from a
New and Old-World perspective, by bringing together artists and scientists from Australia and Wales.
Themes explored include:
• The contrasting world views of the potential environmental benefits and damage caused by
commercial “cash-crop” forestry;
• Strategic tree-planting exemplified by “slowing the flow” schemes in the UK and in the
Brisbane valley, Australia;
• The large-scale destruction of indigenous invertebrates and fish communities in Australia;
• The long-held European view of seeing wildwoods as “waste” to be reclaimed or “simply a
never-ending resource”;
• The New World’s 19th-century settlers/ farmers/colonists’ existential battle with the bush;
• The first peoples’ – Celtic and Aboriginal – physical and spiritual relationships with wildwoods
and how this is increasingly influencing modern thinking and practice in woodland
conservation and management;
• Think pieces on how woodlands need to co-evolve with modern farming, infrastructure and
urban development in the human or Anthropocene epoch.

Of Foresters, Farmers and Fish: tales from the Wildwoods of the Old and New World, provides a novel, nuanced, transdisciplinary and deep-time view of society’s changing relationship with woodlands, drawing on rich and diverse ecological Antipodean narratives.

The steering group for this exhibition comprises two international leading artists – Judy Macklin (Aberystwyth Printmakers, Wales) and Jennifer Stuerzl (IMPRESS, Brisbane Australia) a botanist, Dr David Bedford (former director of Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Australia) and a world authority in ecosystems and environmental change – Professor Mark Macklin (Director of the Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health and Head of the School of Geography, University of Lincoln, UK). Exhibitions in the UK are supported by Molly Brown (Aberystwyth Printmakers) and Flora McLachlan RE (Aberystwyth Printmakers).

Jude and Mark Macklin,
Jennifer Stuerzl and David Bedford