TNC Archive 2016
The Danger Tree
A Groundbreaking Visual Arts Experience
Originally published in 2016
Artist Scarlett Raven unveils her ambitious, groundbreaking visual arts experience, The Danger Tree this summer. Scarlett is the first oil painter to work in the exciting world of augmented reality and reveals the deeply personal process of creating her multi-layered, experiential art.
You can read our review here.
Hi Scarlett, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have things been going?
Really incredible! I've been working on this exhibition for two years so to finally get it up in front of the public it quite something. I feel really passionately about the project and I'm feeling incredibly lucky and honoured by the response so far. It's definitely a very emotional time.
You describe yourself as an Augmentist. How did you first get the idea to introduce augmented reality into your art?
I was introduced to Augmentism by digital artist Marc Marot who I now collaborate very closely with. I'd been documenting and animating my paintings on a basic level for a long time. The process and journey of painting is what fascinates me and draws me to paint. Being led by the materials and subject matter. Marc knew the frustration I experienced knowing that the viewer only saw a small percentage of the work that goes into creating a painting in the final image. By helping me to document the work process digitally, he opened up a world to me that goes way beyond the paint.
What was it about Augmentism that really intrigued you?
For the first time I had a vehicle in which my paintings could be viewed entirely. By that I mean the thought process and creative process that brought them into being. Augmentism was the key for me in unlocking the paintings. Freeing them from their constraints. I've always been frustrated with the two dimensional image, which is why I paint sculpturally, with my hands. It only said a small part of what I wanted it to say artistically. With Augmentism, the paintings are brought to life. They shout and scream. You can hear them, watch their whole journey of survival, go into the darkest depths of them. You can see every part of them. They have a voice. They lift you and smash you against a wall, they grab you and hold you. It's the most incredible feeling. Augmentism has changed my relationship with my work forever. I want to change the way that people view art. I want it to become a completely immersive experience. It feels like Marc and I are at the frontier of something incredibly exciting artistically.
"These poems are sacred. You taste and smell what they have tasted and smelt. Symbolically, the tree and the poems are the same to me."
Tell me a little bit about your latest exhibition The Danger Tree, how did it all come about?
My father was a massive influence and inspiration for the paintings in this exhibition. He was my go to person. He had a huge personal reverence for the soldiers that died protecting Europe during the First World War.
He would call me every day and discuss the war, the poppy, war poetry. He would teach me, empower me. He gave me the courage to tackle such an important subject matter. A few weeks before he died he travelled France to pay his respects to those who died in the Battle of The Somme. He visited a spot called The Danger Tree where members of The Newfoundlanders Regiment had taken shelter on the first day of the battle. It was also the place where many of the regiment died as the tree became an easy target for German artillery.
My father collected soil from the spot and sent it to me with a letter describing how important this earth was. He said that that I should honour the fallen by putting the soil into the layers of my paintings. And this is what I've done. It is also about honouring my father. My father was responsible for introducing me to the War poets. The honesty and rawness in these poems make me want to paint. They are how I want to paint. These poems are sacred. You taste and smell what they have tasted and smelt. Symbolically, the tree and the poems are the same to me. They have been to the darkest places, yet stand tall. The Danger Tree exhibition is not about a defending a country, it's about defending the human heart
Are you all set for the opening of the exhibition this week, any last minute changes?
It's all coming together beautifully but we are doing something that's never been done before so it's going to take everything we've got. I work with the most incredible team who are utterly inspiring.
Do nerves still get you before a new exhibition?
Yes. I'm terrified, but not of showing my work. What terrifies me is speaking. And I have to do a lot of that during exhibition time. I’m dyslexic - it's why I paint – so words are not my strength. I'm a bit of a nervous wreck to be honest. But I hope the works speaks volumes so I just have to remind myself of that. It's the work which should take the limelight.
I'm talking about the heart of the exhibition, the heart of all the people involved. The people I work with and my team behind the scenes. It's from a beautiful raw honest place which is really unexpected in a gallery setting.
Well it's not really a traditional gallery setting, as you’ll see.
The exhibition space has been designed by award winning film set designer Kave Quinn. What has it been like working with her?
The exhibition space has been converted into a building blown to bits during the Battle of the Somme. I get goose bumps even thinking about it. My jaw is just open the whole time in amazement at the space Kave has created. She's incredible! I feel incredibly grateful for her time and heart.
How much do you think the set that has been created will aid how audiences connect to your pieces?
I feel deeply uncomfortable in the sparseness of normal exhibition spaces. They make me feel very self-conscious. I think gallery spaces are alien. I’m hoping the environment we have created for The Danger Tree will act as a portal. There won't be a place to hide with your emotions or be distracted by the outside world. Your reality will become the work, your reality will become the Somme.
Does it ever get easy finally getting to share your work with the public?
I hope not because if it was easy my heart wouldn't be doing it. I wouldn't be giving a bit of my soul away. It's not the work I doubt, it's myself. I love imperfections in my work but can't stand them in myself. I'm my biggest critic. I never want to let the work down or hinder it. I wish I wasn't like that and I could relax and watch my babies grow. Instead I have to just take a deep breath and get through it. I'm most comfortable when I’m the studio, creating.
Have you always had a passion for art?
It's been my life since I was a child. Art helps me make sense of the world and make sense of myself.
Do you remember the first piece you completed?
Yes it was all about materials and process like my work is now. I'd spend months scratching chalk to collect piles of different coloured dust. Pouring stained water onto paper. Smudging, scraping, tearing the paper. Materials and their relationship between one another fascinate me.
How much has your style changed since you first started out?
I don't think it has. I think I have just discovered new materials and come up with different ways to witness them relate to one another. I got into heavy sculptural oil painting when I was 12.
What advice would you offer an up and coming artist?
Work from your heart. Life's complicated enough. In the studio be free and go with your gut. Believe in your instincts. Don't be afraid of how powerful you are. How powerful your work is. How powerful your thoughts and feelings are. If you love what you do it never feels like work and it's never wrong. Celebrate your mistakes.
And finally what do you hope people will take away from your exhibition?
I hope people are deeply moved. I hope they will carry a part of it with them for the rest of their lives. That's what certain artists have done for me.