Cardboard Trees


I am considering the journey of a tree throughout its lifetime and beyond. These giants of nature have been felled and processed, the productions of this final journey scattered on our streets as flimsy, temporary items with seemingly little or no value once discarded.

Exploring the place of the cardboard box in the world culturally, I have become obsessively interested in process and the use of “the processed” both in functional use and as recycled material. These objects land on doorsteps as the ‘transporter’ for something that is needed. I have taken these boxes and moulded them into something that contains the sense of their origins, in an attempt to preserve and acknowledge their presence.

In many ways, I am transforming something that is an impermanent object (the cardboard box), back into a permanent one as an art object that represents the structure and growth of a tree.

The cardboard’s fragile, disposable quality has found its way into my practise; its temporary nature has become a creative material in the production of the ‘new’, acting as a metaphor for my awareness and concerns for our environment. The cardboard has become a solid, monumental mass, which is strong and contains a physical sense of gravity. It has layers, like sediments, building up over time, which conjures up ideas of history and archaeology. For example, the cardboard tree rings could contain fibres from forests all over the world combined. By continually adding rings to the sculptures, I can create the possibility of time, space and the never ending cycle of life. In a similar sense, the way Sisyphus was ordered by the Gods to roll a boulder up a mountain, only to watch it roll back down and start again in an endless trial. The myth suggests a form of entrapment and a task that continues indefinitely.

I am excited by the scale of Anselm Kiefer’s forest works, his ability to involve the viewer. The political and aesthetic ground of Joseph Beuy’s 7000 oaks in the way he is able to communicate them as “The Lungs of the Earth”, which they are. I am inspired by Guiseppe Penone’s consistent fascination with the connection between man and nature, how he strips back the rings of a tree to find its beginnings, its sapling, where the life of the tree starts. In the Golden Bough, the charm of the forests mythological legacy as the keeper of souls and spirits, along with the biological production of oxygen influence how the work is thought about and informs the decisions to manipulate the ‘processed’ materials in the strategies employed for their construction.

Using charcoal on paper, I have developed a series of frottage’s, from the cardboard sculptures, which echo the rings and emphasize the patterns they contain. The black dusty carbon expresses once again the vulnerability of the living giants these materials came from. The drawings are fossil like and organic. They magically seem to hold the texture of a tree without attempts to render them this way.

I am reassembling the residue of trees and the forest in order to pay homage to its once magnificent and continued greatness hoping to produce a contemporary memorial to their existence.

By Sonia Shomalzadeh