Artist Kristina Veasey uses basket weaving as a metaphor for weaving through life’s barriers.
In Vibrancy in the Forest, she weaves together elements of the forest and the narratives of those who live there.
This sculptural basket is an explosive and joyous celebration of solidarity, resilience and the vibrancy of the people of the Forest of Dean. It draws together the stories of a community living in a unique landscape with a rich heritage arising from an ancient, working forest: challenges faced, barriers overcome, friendships forged, and identities that are inextricably linked to a sense of place. This artwork weaves a selection of these narratives together with elements of the forest, in the form of a sculptural basket.
Forest branches have been charred with a Shou Sugi Ban process to make them more resilient to damage from insects, water and fire. Their coal black forms echo the former coal mining and charcoal industries that provided work in the forest. The twisting branches are woven together and secured to an iron frame, with wool the artist has spun from the fleece of a Welsh Mountain Black sheep, a gift from a local ‘Sheep Badger’ (a type of shepherd). It is a nod to the ancient rights of Foresters to allow their sheep to roam freely through the area, and to the miners who worked the iron mines below the forest floor.
An exploration of resilience and solidarity, of small towns, and unheard voices
There is a fierce pride in the Foresters, and they have needed it, in order to defend the land from development. It is home to rare flora and fauna, and the people who live there have their own dialect and ancient rights. In both the natural world, and in the towns, there is a fight to survive and to thrive. There is vibrancy and solidarity to be found in the local communities, but this is also interwoven with individual stories of discrimination, isolation, and the challenges of living in a remote and rural landscape with a heritage steeped in patriarchal industries.
Throughout the artist’s R&D she noticed a real absence of voices from women, from LGBTQ+, minority ethnic, and disabled communities. What is it like to grow up in a white area, as the only Black child in the school? How do you get about in a hilly, forested landscape if you are a wheelchair user with poor public transport links? How do you celebrate being gay and fight for your rights to be yourself, when there are yet to be any Pride events? And how do communities stay in tact when the mines, schools, and hospitals are closing, and work is scarce?
“Confetti printed with the stories of local participants erupts from the canon in a colourful explosion, giving their stories centre stage as they break free from the confines of the basket and announce themselves in all their glorious vibrancy!”
Hidden within the basket is a confetti canon that fires a joyous explosion of coloured paper, printed with the words and conversations gathered from local people through the R&D process.
This piece is a celebration of the lived experiences of people living in a small pocket of Gloucestershire. It is an insight into their part of the country, and to the commonalities and differences found within their community. Vibrancy in the Forest takes those voices and jetisons them skywards, making them visible. This a celebration of diversity, and exploration of universal themes: identity, connection, sense of place, and a weaving through barriers, all seen in the context of a rather unique place.
Film and Podcast
Explore the contours of the basket, in this captioned film. Hear the voices, thick with the Forest of Dean accent, revealing local insights and illustrating the resilience and solidarity of Foresters, both past and present.
Fabrication of artwork and video commissioned by Unlimited with funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Listen to Kristina Veasey in conversation with programmer/curator Cathy Mager discussing the roots of Basketcase, her R&D in the Forest of Dean, and the creation of Vibrancy in the Forest. Discover the artist’s methodology, and explore the value of social engagement and diversity of lived experience. How did she engage the services of a Brass Band, the Deputy Gaveller, and a Sheep Badger? And what were the challenges for an arts organisation and wheelchair-user trying to navigate a rural landscape?