Carmel Wallace

‘Bare Bones of Toolangi Forest’

This work began as an investigation into the inner life of a variety of significant trees in the forest. I cut back the bark of selected fallen branches to reveal the 'bones' beneath. Painted, these branches form a skeletal forest, a memento mori. Hanging, they hold the promise of spiritual rebirth and hope that the forest in all its rich diversity will be valued and saved.

My work had its genesis in an investigation into the inner life of my local native forest, the Cobboboonee.  Mimicking the style of many a naturalist before me, I collected specimens of species growing in that forest. I felt rather like a surgeon, or a miner, as I cut back the bark to uncover the richness of the bare branches - the bones of the trees - beneath.  

Hanging branches make reference to the uncertain future of our natural environment. Are we to be left with only museum specimens from our great forests? Or more optimistically, will our increasing awareness mark a turning point?


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Each species has its own colour and form, density and distinguishing characteristics.  All fill me with wonder and give me a new appreciation of the forest in which they grew.

Carmel's process began with collecting branches from the site and surrounding forest. She patiently carved away the bark of each one to reveal the inner life of the tree. In this process many stories were unveiled of insects that had previously inhabited these branches.

In this process the scale of 'Bare Bones' became much larger and like many of the artists Carmel began to worry that she wasn't going to complete her work on time. From the very beginning there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie between the artists with each wanting the other to succeed, so one afternoon they gathered together to whittle her branches with her.

From this point branches were painted, creating textures and nuances from the markings and shape of each one. The increased scale of the work saw local arborist Darryl Taylor come into the project to assist Carmel and her husband Grant with the installation process. 

Carmel relished the opportunity to extend her concepts from the Cobboboonee to the Toolangi Forest and learn about the tree species within this precious environment.

Special thanks to Grant Wallace and Darryl Taylor (Tree Ethics).