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Sydenham Hill Wood SE26 - May 2005
The Art of Permanence and Change - An exhibition of contemporary art
Created in conjunction with the London Wildlife Trust

Sydenham Hill Wood image

Joanna Morse Palmer
Sydenham Hill Wood is contained within an old railway cutting that used to be part of the line running from Peckham to Crystal Palace. The first day of the Exhibition was bright , without being to sunny, providing the perfect lighting for a walk in a beautiful haven within the quiet London suburb of Sydenham

Of all of the webpages that I have put together over the years this was the hardest to compose, with a limited number of photo's, it proved hard to do both justice to the Wood and justice to the exhibition. With more forethought I could have lead the viewer through the Art of Permanence and Change, explained the concepts, provided interviews with the organisers and artists, and highlighted individual exhibits. As it is, I am left with to few images to present the exhibition as a whole, and a feeling of frustration of a job half done. Never mind. This is my best effort of a novel idea to present a comtemporary art exhibition out of doors in the beautiful surroundings of Sydenham Hill Wood.

Sydenham Woods One could not help but be struck by the light coming through the leaf canopy, in all it's variations of green.  Then there were the trees themselves, such marvellous shapes, silhouetted against the green. 

Joanna Morse Palmer  We arrived about 11:00 am just as the Joanna was starting her performance, she approached out of nowhere, walking through the audience of a dozen or so people, to take up her position below the powerful looking rope hanging high from a bough of a tree.  There followed a performance that lasted about twenty minutes consisting mostly of rope work that looked deceptively easy.  Joanna is an extremely fit young lady who moved up and down the rope with such skill that at times one could be forgiven for thinking that she was standing on a solid structure rather than supporting her own weight.  Her performance, based on an Oscar Wilde tale about a nightingale, the need for a red rose and a lover, was enjoyably gory, and it was nice to have a splash of red in all that green.  Joanne then disappeared back from whence she came, slowly, and we all moved on to explore the rest of the day.

Helen Morse Palmer  A way down the path we came across a stone structure that had probably been a doorway in a past life, with arched stonework typical of church entrances, but two small right angled wall sections were all that remained.  Hopeful of a second performance we were disappointed to learn that Helen's small wooden assistants were stuck in traffic, probably somewhere on the nearby South Circular.  As one of the Exhibition organisers Helen decided to put this setback behind her and wandered off to look for either a tripod or a ladder............ as you would.

John Dellar John Deller  A series of three panels, each at the exit path of a triangular clearing, provided a stark digital contrast to the softer shades of green familiar in nature.  A casual glance at such exhibits quickly becomes replaced by an obsession to reconcile each black and white line with its natural counterpart, we did however, stop short of a family row.  John was an organiser, and odd job man extrordinaire, for the Exhibition, however, I must admit to a certain conflict of interest here, having been married to his mother for some considerable period of time.

All of this fresh air and walking tends to feed the appetite so we adjorned to the local pub for lunch.  The Dulwich Wood House, just at the top of the road, served a nice pint of Youngs bitter and had a fine lunchtime menu.

My only slight criticism of the event would be that a few more exhibitors would have been welcome, together with more frequent performances by those artists who were there on the weekend.  Other than that it was a pleasent day out, so moving on let's have a look at some of the other exhibits.

Wallpapered trees
Wallpapered trees Wallpapered trees
Jane Thurley

Bearing in mind the old addage about watching wallpaper fade, it takes a brave or confident artist to use such a medium.  But it works.  Watching wallpaper fade is notoriously boring but walking through a brightly lit wood to be confronted by tree stumps papered with flowered designs makes you stop suddenly and look twice.  The idea is surprisingly subtle but provides a strong talking point.  'Who's ever seen wallpapered trees! '

Joanna Morse Palmer To round off the page I should perhaps mention some of the artists that I did not manage to see or photograph.  Kim Simons who became part of her own sculture, a modified garden bench, and so Kim watched the Watchers, and I understand scared some of them.  Then there was the totally dark space, by Disinformation. Set in the old railway tunnel, studio flash guns projected your shadow onto a phosphorescent screen, which then decayed slowly allowing the participant time to doodle on their own shadow with a torch. Sydenham Woods

I shall leave you with a quote from the  London Wildlife Trust website.

Sydenham Hill Wood

Combined with the adjacent Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood forms the largest remaining tract of the old Great North Wood which once stretched from Deptford to Selhurst. In the 1870's large Victorian villas with extensive gardens were established on Sydenham Hill and the wood is now a unique mix of old woodland, Victorian garden survivors and recent woodland. The wood is home to over 200 species of trees and flowering plants including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle. A multitude of fungi, rare insects, birds and elusive woodland mammals are also present. The Trust began managing the wood in 1982, and with determined support of local people it remains a valuable reserve for the continued benefit of wildlife and people. Cox's Walk is an old avenue lined with oaks that support nuthatch and green woodpecker. London Wildlife Trust -