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Tim Knowles’ “Oak on Easel #1” (Cumbria, 2005)

You know how everyone’s claiming to be an artist these days? Make-up technicians, hairdressers, gallerists, your kid sister, that crazy aunt who does crocheted landscapes? Yeah? Well now even plants are getting in on the game. British artist Tim Knowles attaches pens to the tips of tree branches and sets up an easel just within reach of the waving “paintbrushes.” As the tree branches sway and get blown around, the pens trace out black arcs and dots on the papered easels. There’s a minimalist poetry to the works themselves that’s pretty cool.

But what I find really interesting about Knowles’ project is the documentation. The photographs Knowles takes of his artist-trees are a strange mix of idealized landscapes, anthropomorphized nature and a bizarre dollop of a kind of post-Victorian sexuality: the fetish of an artist taking on nature … when the artist is nature. Check out this tree doin’ its thang:

This tree is known for its bravura brushstrokes. It’s a bad boy. (via timknowles.co.uk)

Isn’t that hott? But how do these trees compare to other artists trekking out to the wilderness to portray their own version of nature?

Monet, In the Woods at Giverny, 1887

This tree is inspired by the rocks’ inorganic qualities. Tim Knowles, “Oak on Easel #1” (Stonethwaite Beck, Smithymire Island, Borrowdale, Cumbria, 2005)

Gustave Courbet liked to paint trees.

This tree is totally into the more natural branches of minimalism. Tim Knowles, “Victoria Park, London” (2005) (via timknowles.co.uk)

Jackson Pollock didn’t paint any trees.

[Note: Courbet link here]

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

11 replies on “Trees Are Artists Too!”

  1. Sure any tree can paint. But can it paint as well as the painting horse I read about recently? I think Bravo needs to develop “Project Paint Off.” The premise: Trees, monkeys, horses–all manner of plant and animal life–compete for a solo show at the vanity gallery of their choice. I think this idea’s got legs.

  2. OK, Kyle and Hrag. I say forget Bravo. Let’s take take this proposal directly to Animal Planet! (Kyle: I don’t mean to make fun of the painting trees. I actually love them!)

    1. haha have you ever seen Puppy Bowl? The TV show that comes on during the Super Bowl? It’s just video of puppies playing in a mini stadium. It could be that, but paper it and cover the puppies paws in paint… Oh wait. Aaron Young already did that. http://artobserved.com/358/

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