Encircled Gold

As an environmental artist Louise Fowler-Smith’s enquiry has been driven for many years by her belief in the universal need to reframe contemporary world views and the role that the artist can play in representing a new philosophical framework around the land. Her most recent work focuses on the veneration of trees, a subject she was drawn to not only for the magnitude of its environmental significance, but its universal and pan-religious symbolic importance.

Her work investigates anthropocene extinction, environmental justice and climate adaptation and rests at the intersection between the aesthetic approach to art and the ethical.  It has been referred to as memorials for what we have lost -an ethos. Louise’s photographic exploration becomes the epitaph for how the world was - or could be. They memorialise aspects of the natural environment that we have lost, or risk losing.

Louise illuminates the natural world both physically and metaphorically. Darkness is a part of vision - it can frame something without destroying it. Through framing the natural world with darkness the specificity of that world is revealed.

Louise’s investigation and resultant work has spanned many continents. She has photographed in the deserts of Australia, multiple states across the country of India, in the forests of Japan, Italy and France.  After traveling across the majority of India over the past 10 years, Louise is now compiling a book that illustrates and explains the practice of aesthetically enhancing  the Tree as an act of veneration or worship, a subject she was attracted to not only for its enchanting beauty, but its ability to protect trees from loggers. Her article titled  "Hindu Tree Veneration as a Mode of Environmental Encounter" was published in Leonardo - The Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology - Volume 42, Number 1. This can be accessed online at http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/leon/42/1 - under general articles.

Louise is a Senior Lecturer at the University of NSW, Art & Design in Sydney, Australia.  She is also the Director of the Imaging the Land International Research Initiative (ILIRI), which aims to promote new ways of perceiving the land in the 21st century and which offers residencies for artists in the Australian desert. Louise has recently established the ILIRI ‘Creative Laboratory’ – a large area of land where artists, architects, scientists - people concerned with the environment – can collaborate on projects that explore new ways of perceiving, interacting and living in a land starved of water. For more information on ILIRI please go to http://www.cofa.unsw.edu.au/research/groups/iliri/

Louise is also the Founder of the Tree Veneration Society, which is based in Sydney Australia but is attracting international membership. The Tree Veneration Society aims to re-contextualise the historical practice of the sacredness and veneration of trees across nearly all cultures into a progressive contemporary community art project. While being environmentally conscious of the value of trees, particularly in our environmentally challenged world, they also hope to bring some sense of the ritual created in forming a cross-cultural celebration of nature. For more information please visit. https://treevenerationsociety.com/

“How we perceive and contemplate the land affects how we treat the land. If we see the land as separate from ourselves we are less likely to honour and respect it.”