Great art shows us things we might not otherwise be able to imagine. Sometimes literally. I think that elusively simple quality is one of the reasons that Connecticut-based artist Bryan Nash Gill’s large-scale relief prints of the cross sections of trees are so compelling. They are collected in a new book that was recently released called Woodcut.
The patterns themselves are very, very beautiful. There is something organic and unified about them, even though each one is utterly different and unexpected. There is something enchanting about knowing that these rings mark year-by-year chapters in the life of a living organism.
Bryan Nash Gill gets the wood he uses for the prints from land near his studio and prepares “blocks” of the different species (including ash, maple, oak, spruce, and willow). He then makes prints by coating the wood with ink and pressing the contours of rings and ridges until they completely transfer to the paper.
The level of detail, considering how small the scale of tree ring topography must be, is truly astounding.
Verlyn Klinkenborg, a well-known nature writer (with one of the most memorable author names ever), wrote the introduction to Woodcut. The book also includes an interview with the artist that goes in to greater detail about the print-making process.
There is also an additional series of prints of lumber, burls, branches, knots, and scrubs.
To me, seeing the inside of a tree is akin to discovering a secret hiding place or immersing yourself in the tiny universe of a dollhouse. There is something exquisite in how private, how detailed, and how intimate it feels.
There is a vestige of life in there. You can feel it.
All images courtesy of Bryan Nash Gill author, Woodcut (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012).