This page has information on Amy's exhibited works and curated exhibitions (incl. Every Forest A Reframing, 2017; Were X A Tree, 2016; Pine, 2013; and Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig, 2013), as well as occasional published artworks and commissioned record covers. There are also some details from Amy's painting in different media (on canvas, wood, marble, or stone, and often using oil paints, acrylic, liquid bronze, or degraded plant material). The themes are often linked to memory or to natural history.
You, the stingbearers
As a duo, Amy Cutler and Sylvia Hallett perform live improvisatory settings of pieces drawing on natural history texts, such as “you, the stingbearers”, based on Jean-Henri Fabre’s 19th c. chronicle of human desolation, The Life of the Fly. The installation includes Amy's projections (left); kaleidoscopes and celluloid mutations based on glitched insect forms and movements in 1970s VHS nature documentaries, from larvae to tsetse flies. Amy and Sylvia's live compositions use instruments including viola, musical saw, and Russian vines from Sylvia's garden, while the lyrics draw on the dark sides of nature: from sea parasites to forensic botany to elegies based on Arctic bird migrations and Icelandic ballads. This particular piece has been installed and performed at SET Gallery in Bermondsey as part of Bring Your Own Beamer (14th Dec 2017), and as one part of a triptych of audiovisual performances alongside Dean McPhee, Sam McLoughlin and David Chatton Barker (16th Dec 2017). It is being developed as a DVDR release.
Every forest a reframing
"From woodland we come to woodland we go" - Marietta Pallis
Showing at the Sheffield Institute of Arts, 6th-28th September 2017, as part of In the Open, this ongoing collaboration between Amy Cutler and Steve Baker considers ideas of homage, haunting, and iconicity in woodlands, particularly reclaimed or recolonised woodlands. Cutler's interest in 'the endless relay of haunting citation' in the forest led to shared discussion of processes of glitch, framing, mis-alignment, juxtaposition, and repetition, and to Baker’s sited still lives of pages of noirish tree portraits by photographer and bookbinder Josef Sudek; here, Sudek's Mionší Forest is brought into an imagined relation with the trees of the East Anglian landscape.
In response to Baker's Like Columns of Tiny Ants and Sudek's Trees, Cutler's black and white series explores the idea of multi-spectral forests and composite canopy imaging, also using Sudek's iconic images of panes, fog, and branches as a translucent "viewing lens" in less familiar woods, in a sort of real life double-exposure. Like Marietta Pallis' oak "tableaux" paintings, which ironise the normative vision of woodland succeeding grazing marsh in the Norfolk Broads, Cutler chose Russia Dock Woodland as her local wood reclamation: a now living timber yard, created from the infilling of a dead timber yard in Surrey commercial docks. In the staging of Baker's and Cutler's composite works, the boundaries between homage and reality are tested and retested, in woodlands which are themselves a managed and over-worked artefact of the British landscape.
LP Record Sleeve
This record cover takes the elements of the famous Irish ballad - the banks of the canal, the insanity-inducing triangle at Mountbank Prison, and the procession of the convicts to execution - and combines it with the grislier German / Norse version of the "Wild Hunt" or "Ghost Train" of the doomed, including the "mad army of little thieves". Amy can also be heard singing backing.
At Least Those That Remain In Our Memory
This diagram artwork, titled "At least those that remain in our memory", was created for the book The Lost Diagrams of Walter Benjamin (MA Bibliothèque, 2017).
In 'A Berlin Chronicle', Walter Benjamin describes his autobiography as a 'space to be walked'. Indeed, it is a labyrinth, with entrances he calls primal acquaintances.
The contributors to The Lost Diagrams responded to an invitation to accompany Benjamin in reproducing the web of connections of his diagram, which, once lost (he was inconsolable), the diagram was never fully redrawn.
They translate his words into maps, trees, lists, and constellations. Their diagrams, after Benjamin, are fragments, scribbles, indexes, bed covers, and body parts. Subjectivities sharpen and blur, merge and redefine, scatter and recollect. Benjamin writes — ‘Whatever cross connections are finally established between these systems also depends on the inter-twinements of our path through life’.
‘This archive of maps by readers of Benjamin suggests an unexpected form of solidarity.’ — Susan Buck-Morss
‘The diagrams in this book trial the possible clusters of a life curtailed, one tailored to small means, but immense in imagination: Walter Benjamin’s.’ — Esther Leslie
FAD review: 'Amy Cutler’s PINE (2013) asks a two part question projected onto a slice of pine trunk infested with wood worm: ‘Dites-moi suis-je revenue de l’autre monde?’ This piece evokes questions concerning life, death, resurrection and the role of the wound. The pine trunk slice appears to curl its arms around its wood worm wound, at once protecting the wound and attempting to overcome it, or seal it, drawing attention to that which returns and to that which is already here: what is retained or (p)reserved, in the present, of the past? Are the traumas of the past revisited on the present through wounds such as these? What does it mean for wood to remember?'
Trebuchet Magazine review: 'It is Amy Cutler’s installation, PINE, however, a projection onto a section of tree that has experienced “forest trauma” of lines from a poem by holocaust survivor, Charlotte Delbo, that offers the most radical image of interrelatedness. The juxtaposition shocks partly because we resist such analogies, but also stirs an ambivalence about all our efforts to make nature speak.'
Velour review: 'Amy Cutler’s PINE, a verbal play on a dendrochronology sample projected with modern French poetry, might lead us to feel that such palimpsests of another life signal regret – they are in fact equivalent to and at one with the life that remains, stored in genetic reserve (…) and available to us. Temporally circling nature, here the predator never fully possesses the prey; nature inevitably recolonizes what man has attempted to fit to his tune.'
Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig (2013)
This exhibition curated in 2013 by Amy Cutler (now online in catalogue form here) investigates the properties of forest memory through text, archive, and “xylarium”, or wood collection. Between the French horticultural term “forest trauma” and Robert Pogue Harrison’s “forests of nostalgia”, a whole discipline around history, witnessing, and the memorial qualities of woodland opens up. Art works examining the cultural expression of time and history in the forest are placed here alongside archival photographs, small press texts, artefacts, and museum objects, in an old, low-lit belfry designed by Sir John Soane.
The use of trees and woodland to invoke the past is all around us, from local tree registers and writings (with titles like Legacy Trees, Our Living Memorials, Heritage Trees of Ireland, and Silent Witness: Diary of a Historic Tree), to the Forestry Commission’s 2005 policy for ancient and native woodland entitled “Keepers of Time”. This idea of “Keepers of Time”, of trees being stewards for human memory and the human story, catches the imagination of the government and the media; but it is also the subject of a number of works by artists, writers, and researchers. Relics, by Richard Skelton and Autumn Richardson, uses the linguistic record to chart eleven lost tree genera, identified by pollen grain analysis in the 1960s. Edmund Hardy’s A Forest Set fragmentarily re-quotes Rachael Holtom’s Echoes of Epping Forest: Oral history of the 20th Century Forest, drawing attention to the logic by which historical experience is ‘accessed’ in the forest, and by which different voices become federated in a single account of social memory.
Dendrochronology specimens and core samples loaned by dendrochronologist Martin Bridge show some of the procedures for counting tree growth rings. The spruce section in particular shows how historical scars grow in the flesh of the tree, with lobate growth caused by rocks falling down a mountainside and crashing into the tree. Above this, Gail Ritchie’s memorial tree ring drawing series conflates the stunted lives of fallen trees with the fallen of the battlefield (a similar pun on the fallen dead and the felling of trees to Zoë Skoulding’s ‘In the Forest Where They Fell’, displayed written on birch bark nearby). Paul Gough comments on Ritchie’s diagrams of memory that ‘the response by visitors when these are exhibited are various: some choose to see faces, brain scans, targets, or even bullets embedded in the outer carapace of the tree’s cross-section.’
The link between trees and mourning, as with the yew tree of Tennyson’s In Memoriam, is touched on in a number of works, including The Grief of Trees, by Peter Jaeger and Zoe Hope, which in its material form provides an index similar to the catalogues of trees in Drayton and Spenser (where we hear of “the Fir, that weepeth still”). Paul Gough’s Upas Tree drawings take inspiration from Paul Nash’s wartime paintings, which link corpses to shattered or blasted trees, but also from the enigmatic fable of the dreaded Upas Tree, based in turn on the tale of the poisonous anchar tree, first revealed by 18th century botanist Erasmus Darwin. The French term “forest trauma”, used for post-war ecological devastation, is echoed by the linking of man and tree in the commonly used phrase ‘veteran tree’.
The spectre of ash dieback haunts this exhibition, both in contemporary works such as Carol Watts’ Ash Pastoral, and in earlier works which create keepsakes of trees, particularly herman de vries’ In Memory of Scottish Forests. The sound in the exhibition is Richard Skelton’s Noon Hill Wood, which ‘with its achingly beautiful interleaved bowed melodies (…) drifts through ranks of pine, larch and birch’. The film projected is Chris Paul Daniels’ Family Tree, which shows J. W. Brunskill’s glass-plate portraits of residents of the Windermere region, collected between 1860 and 1900, interwoven with micro-environments of bark. These portraits of family members rooted in the same space, branched across time, gives another model of how we as a culture orient “memory” according to models born out of wood or the woods.
But, mean glory of the world, / misshapen memory of other seasons, / the forest remains - Andrea Zanzotto