Celia de Serra

My focus on drawing trees began incidentally to a project I had been working on describing paths and tracks.  These structures seemed stylistically and compositionally  useful  throwing up interesting ideas including notions of narrative via journeys.  It then became apparent that these journeys were leading me imaginatively back to an early preoccupation I had with the lives and stories of Northern European woodlands.

Woodlands are crammed full of visual ideas. They are dynamic spaces broken by chaotic forms and shifting light; a curious sense of stillness and movement, space and enclosure.  There is too much information here for the brain/eye to process, it demands attention and time and to be captured somehow, and I am reminded of the 'Desert Seen' series by Lee Friedlander. His images of Cacti and tree stumps are a faithful and forensic record, and become something quite entirely 'other'. 

The 'point' of a pencil is subliminally incisive, more so than painting, and more akin to photography perhaps; an unravelling and remaking of each tiny piece of the image, bringing a closer affinity to the woodland subject matter.  The process of drawing sparks a greater capacity for sensitivity and involvement, a deepness of tone or lightness of touch in pristine monochrome, unconfused by a cloak of colour.  Like a photograph, the image is a fragment preserved and springs from an urge to preserve, but something else too - a thing in itself, a soulful experiment in mark-making, tone and form.

My eye is the lens with which I choose to shift and tilt perspective, my intention being to re-frame and re-see the forest, to challenge how we see things and our relationship with our environment.  As Paul Caponigro says:  'Photography is a medium, a language, through which I might come to experience directly, live more closely with, the interaction between myself and nature'. 

These densely worked, exquisite landscapes are characterised by an obsession with light and mood. Through the discipline of drawing and painting figuratively, Celia is engaged intensely in the act of looking, and concentrates on a kind of visual scrutiny to which the viewer is drawn, generating a particular viewer involvement and a visceral sense of ‘being there’. Notable for their absence of humans and buildings, her landscapes are nevertheless perhaps reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich's.  Even without Friedrich's solitary figures these landscapes seem to have a human presence.  There is also an implicit allusion to the notion of narrative; the track or pathway being seen as a metaphor for this. This implied narrative provides no answers, only suggestions,  producing a sense of desire or promise and subsequently an emotional charge.  

Born in 1973 Celia de Serra spent her childhood in rural Kent and West Dorset graduating from Exeter University in 1995 with a Fine Art and English degree. In the Nineties her art practice was predominately concerned with abstraction but she retained an obsession and attachment to her rural roots and went on to produce a body of work investigating and responding to rural environments, from the West Country to Shropshire and Wales.  Celia exhibits frequently and has completed commissions for both Somerset and Dorset NHS Trusts where a collection of her paintings now remain on permanent show. She exhibits in several galleries and has recently won an award for her drawings from the Oppenheim John-Downes Memorial Trust.

Edge of the Wood
charcoal on paper
74.5 x 104.5 cm
The Mooring
pencil on Bristol board
18 x 26.8 cm
Advance on Monty
oil on canvas
30 x 45 cm
Gatley Retreat
oil on canvas
30 x 45 cm
Review in
'The Week'