Artist profile - Richard Shilling
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 March 2017
Lancaster-based artist delights ramblers with his striking work but you have to be quick to see them. Roger Borrell reports.
Most artists dream of having their work in a famous gallery or an august museum, but Richard Shilling knows his creations rarely survive the ravages of time. And he’s delighted.
The Lancaster-based artist works with nature, finding beauty in a pile of polished stones or a diaphanous leaf blown from the trees in an autumn breeze.
He takes them and makes sculptures from the natural materials he finds around him, preserving them only with photographs taken without the aid of any technical trickery. He then lets nature take its course as the elements reclaim them.
Walkers in Lancashire, the Lakes and Yorkshire will often turn a corner and be pleasantly surprised – and perhaps a little intrigued - to find a finely balanced set of symmetrical stones or leaves sewn into a box placed in a remote corner of the countryside.
Sometimes you need to be very quick to catch them. One remarkable work involved a section of ice chopped from a small pool on Clougha Pike. Richard pressed his hand into the ice to create a melted imprint.
Now he is sharing his passion as the artist in residence at the Middlewood Trust at Roeburndale, just south of the pretty village of Wray. The trust aims to advance research and provide education in techniques of agriculture, forestry, wildlife and countryside management, building, energy conservation and human lifestyle which are in tune with the natural cycle and do not upset the long term ecological balance.
It is based in idyllic semi-ancient woodlands and over three decades it has provided a place of education on all aspects of low-impact living. Courses range from spoon-carving and coppicing to greenwood furniture making and yurt building.
Richard hosts some of the courses there as well as staging workshops at Muncaster Castle near Ravenglass.
‘My art is all about making a connection with nature, something that is fundamental to maintaining good mental health,’ he said. ‘I instruct in techniques that are very accessible, easy to follow and put into practice, so no artistic talent is required from anyone who comes along to one of my events.
‘We use the inherent beauty of nature to guide us through the process. Almost universally, people attending find a new way to connect to themselves and to the natural world and leave the session refreshed with a big smile on their faces.
‘It is such a pleasure to introduce people to my art and to help them discover a way to reconnect. Whatever age you are, if you are looking for a new way to get creative, to meditate by the river or to improve your mental and physical health, this art form is a unique path for all to step towards a more fulfilled and calmer life.’
Why not take a leaf out of Richard’s book?
Along with his work at the Middlewood Trust, Richard also performs workshops, activities and events for schools, groups and at festivals across the country through his association with LandArtforKids.com. He will be at the Down By the Riverside Festival in Dolphinholme on June 3 and at any of the festivals at Muncaster Castle this coming year. For more information go to richardshilling.co.uk