Trees which thrive despite catastrophe inspire artist's lockdown exhibition

Tansy Lee Moir is based in South Queensferry.

A South Queensferry artist has created an exhibition inspired by how trees survive catastrophe, reflecting the resilience needed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tansy Lee Moir’s collection Out of the Wood was originally due to go on show at Drum Castle in Aberdeen but was cancelled due to the pandemic.

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Instead her ‘lockdown project’ has to been create new work inspired by the fortitude and resilience of trees.

Many of her paintings had to be done from photographs, as she was not able to travel to her usual haunts while travel restrictions were in place.

The finished works are now online at Edinburgh Palette, where Ms Lee Moir used to have her studio and where she has had several exhibitions in the past.

Several oil paintings in the collection are of phoenix trees.

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“It’s not really something that’s quite well known but if a tree blows over, as long as the roots are still attached to the ground it will just keep growing.

“It’ll keep going but in a horizontal position, so I quite like the metaphor of resilience.

“It looks like a catastrophe but if you just let it settle the tree will find a way to grow at a different angle and adapt to its new situation.

Another collection, ‘veterans’, shows trees as old as 300 in charcoal.

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“It’s the same sort of thing, I like the old gnarly ones which are just hanging on, I don’t like pretty trees,” said Ms Lee Moir.

They have so much character. I think they sort of show you that you can take what life throws at you, you can keep going.

“These are old trees, they are nearing the end of their lives I suppose so it could be a bit gloomy, but they support a huge amount of life and biodiversity.

“It’s about valuing things which have been around for a long time. You think, what were the people like who were walking past this tree 300 years ago?”

Ms Lee Moir ordinarily paints trees around Scotland.

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Her regular spots include an old oak wood in Dalkeith Country Park, Calderwood in West Lothian, Drum Castle in Aberdeen, and another wood in the Borders.

During the lockdown she started going to nearby Abercorn.

“There’s a grove of very old Yew trees, they sort of walk across the ground,” she said.

“They grow sideways and creep across the land. They’re a bit weird, some people say they look a bit like monsters. It’s interesting to hear what people see in them.”

Ms Lee Moir has been painting trees for years.

“I’ve always found trees fascinating because they’re always different, I’m never going to get bored,” she said.

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“Even drawing the same tree every week I would never get bored, there’s always something different to see in it. I like drawing in a sculptural way, and trees are natural, living sculptures.

“They tell a story about the lives that they’ve had. If the wind has been blowing consistently from the west then they’ll be shaped by that, they’ll be learning over.

“It’s a combination of the fact that they look amazing they’re really interesting sculptural forms, but also they’ve got a story and a connection to our history and the way that we use the land. That’s a good combination for me.”

The exhibition is online here.

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