Trees / by Jeannine Cook

It's funny - when you are scrolling though masses of art images, there is sometimes one that stops you, grabs you and makes you investigate carefully. This happened to me the other day when I was trying to find out more about the Iranian poet and artist, Sohrab Sepehri, who lived from 1928 to 1980. His poems are beautiful, but it was his paintings that interested me.

He apparently had a love affair with trees all his life and did the most wonderful renditions of their trunks. (At left, Trees, 1970, image courtesy of the Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection.) He spent time in the early 1960s in Japan and was very much influenced by Japanese art, especially woodcuts, and Japanese haikus. He later had a very successful international career in art, and spent time working on a series that he called The Tree Trunk Series.

Apparently shy and retiring, Sepehri found a means of expression, as a painter, in his renditions of trees and landscapes, using soft brush strokes and a restrained palette to create these semi-abstracted portraits of trees that are very arresting, yet somehow very specific to place and implying great space beyond the canvas. On the right is a huge canvas, painted in 1978-79, is called House of Kashan and on the left, below, is an earlier work in the Tree Series. As was commented in an auction catalogue on Arcadja, "To him the tree was a symbol of benevolence and stability in a world corrupted by ignorance and malice, his majestic portrayals capture absolutely the quiet grandeur of ancient forests and harbour an undeniable mystical quality." Painting trees kept him anchored in a world in which he felt very comfortable, particularly when he had to deal with places like Manhattan, in which he felt very alien.

I suppose these paintings and the commentaries I have been able to read about Sepehri's optic on trees, both in his writings and in his art, all resonate with me, because I too love depicting trees. I find each one to be utterly individual, powerful and very much worth of a portrait. I realised that I keep returning to trees as subject matter, especially for my drawings in graphite and especially silverpoint, because I was selecting work to put up on another website to which I was invited this week. Since one travels in hope in life, this site is apparently aimed at designers and decorators - who knows! Nonetheless, my making a selection of art led me to posting a series of tree images.

What is always so interesting is to see how each artist approaches interpretation of trees. Since we all bring our life experience to the art-making, that is logical. The main point is to celebrate trees!