A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2023

Over the past three years Barnaby immersed himself in the captivating embrace of London’s ancient Epping Forest where he sought solace and inspiration while reflecting on the passage of time. This exhibition is a reflection of his journey as he wandered through the forest’s winding paths capturing and recording the forest through thousands of photographs.

This exhibition is an invitation to slow down, an oasis of calm in contrast to the velocity of 21st century life!

Barnaby Barford

Barford’s new ‘Living Paintings’ are large-scale digital artworks. He has overlaid the forest photography crafting intricate layers that very gradually evolve over a loop of an hour and a half. What was once a simple snapshot of nature blossoms into galactic scenes microscopic realms and even tribal masks. Like a sunset that perpetually repaints itself each passing moment brings a new revelation even the briefest glance away results in a striking transformation upon your return.

It is as visually compelling and hypnotic to watch as the accompanying exhibition soundtrack is to the ear, which Barford has made using sounds from the woodland in collaboration with composer Pascal Wyse. Listen to the soundscape here 

Below are some stills from the ‘Living Paintings’ and also a very short video showing a detail.

The themes of repetition and abstraction are extended through the tree carvings, also known as Arborglyph Works.

Epping Forest, home to some of England’s most ancient trees, bears the enduring scars of countless individuals who have etched their initials into the living bark. In contrast to the ‘Living Paintings,’ which exalt the elusive nature of capturing moments in time, these carvings stand as tangible testaments to our inherent desire to etch a moment in time, be it an expression of love, a fleeting encounter, or a mark of devotion.

Barford’s discoveries include arborglyphs dating back to 1907, each contributing to the forest’s enigmatic aura, weaving tales of bygone eras and the profound depths of time. Transforming this intrusion upon the natural world into giclée prints, Barford layers names, hearts, and jagged pictograms, creating a complex interplay that evokes the essence of his Word Drawings. The resulting works evoke a sense of celestial bodies or clandestine discoveries, as if stumbled upon by torchlight.

As a further invitation to slow down, Barnaby has designed benches for the exhibition. Reminiscent of his word drawings and cut from steel, they are evocative of tangled branches and the forest’s organic layering. The shadow play from the resulting works forms like evolving drawings on the floor.

The 1.3m light sculpture gracefully bathes the room in a dappled, forest-like glow, evoking the gentle interplay of light and shadow often found beneath the canopy of trees. Made from 9,000 porcelain leaves, it mimics the magical, natural light one might encounter in a woodland setting.