shaking the tree - etching, relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

shaking the tree - etching, relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

falling apples - monoprint, relief, chine-collé, 12"x12"

falling apples - monoprint, relief, chine-collé, 12"x12"

far from the tree - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

far from the tree - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

berry patch - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

berry patch - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

reunion - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

reunion - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

stray bead - monotype, relief, chine-collé, 12"x12"

stray bead - monotype, relief, chine-collé, 12"x12"

two beads - monotype, chine-collé, 12"x12"

two beads - monotype, chine-collé, 12"x12"

broken necklace - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

broken necklace - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

hanging garden - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

hanging garden - monotype, chine-collé, 36"x48"

life's a bed - etching, chine-collé, 36"x48"

life's a bed - etching, chine-collé, 36"x48"

petals - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

petals - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

sprout - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

sprout - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

pruning - etching, relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

pruning - etching, relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

thicket - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

thicket - etching, chine-collé, 12"x12"

root grafting - relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

root grafting - relief, chine-collé, 36"x48"

far from the tree

 

 

far from the tree,  Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph 2004

 

 

essay by Virginia Eichhorn

 

It was once a common tradition to plant a tree at the birth of a first child. Some cultures still do so. In Jamaica, for example, a coconut tree is planted every time a child is born with the hope that the child will never go hungry. This atavistic connection between birth, family and trees has integrated itself even into our language. Bloodlines are described as the “family tree” and to lose connections with home and family is to be “uprooted”. As such, it isn’t surprising when Tammy Ratcliff states that her body of work titled far from the tree was stimulated by her reflections on family and society in relation to nature and our natural instincts.

 

Ratcliff is an accomplished printmaker, educated in London, England and Ontario. She has shown her work in numerous galleries and has been accepted into the print residency at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium for summer 2005. On a personal note and important to fully understand this work, Ratcliff was adopted. It was after the birth of her son, five years ago, that Ratcliff began a search for her birth mother. This involved, as she describes it, the piecing together of her life story which necessitated her maintaining a balance between the desires and tensions of her birth and adoptive families. It is that sense of disparate but somehow related parts brought together as a whole, which she effectively creates within her art work and which mirrors her personal experience.

 

far from the tree consists of a number of large and small prints using primarily intaglio printmaking techniques on mulberry or gampi paper. Her process involves taking one square plate on which the design is etched, printing with it, then altering the plate through etching and drypoint and reprinting several times until her small edition is complete. The resulting printworks produce images which are subtly obfuscated yet which retain some ghost or remnant of the original image. In a poetic sense, this process indicates the passage of time and changes that everyone experiences, both in their person and in their relationships. For Ratcliff, this type of artmaking reflects her fascination with images in which the parts are related, individualistic and contribute to the sum. While the images are separate and could be seen on their own, their full effect is not evident until they have been arranged together to reveal the overall pattern. The pieces are separate yet related and ultimately are integral to each other.

 

Ratcliff’s explorations into identity have been metaphorically articulated through both her imagery and her techniques. While undoubtedly inspired by personal concerns far from the tree has broader implications as well. The questions that she rises relating to “family” can be extended to concerns of society at large. Essentially, how do we integrate and co-exist with others whose only connection to us is our sense of place? Ratcliff’s work posits that while we are all separate and individual that it is through and in our relationships that the “big picture” is fully realized and relationships revealed. Ultimately, it isn’t the seed that sprouts or the fruit that the tree bears that is important; rather what matters is that the ground is fertile and that the roots grow deep.