Davies’ most recent solo exhibition Stars ran at The Sophie Maree Gallery in The Hague from 10 January until 28 February 2015. Crane Kalman Gallery Brighton will take her work to Photo London Art Fair at Somerset House from 21 to 24 May 2015. Other recent solo exhibitions include Into the Woods at The Richard Young Gallery in London, Come with Me at The Print House Gallery in London, Smoke and Mirrors at 10GS London, and Ellie Davies New Landscape at Bruce Collections, Kiev in Ukraine.
Her work is held in private collections in the UK, the US, Central and Eastern Europe, South Korea, Hong Kong, Russia and The United Arab Emirates. WUD: Four Fictional Walks in the Woods has been added to the collections of the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Library Project Bookshop, Dublin, The Glasgow School of Art Library, and is stocked in Foyles London.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the New Forest in the South of England.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a vet when I was very young, then an architect until I found out how long it takes to train! Then during my senior school and into Art Foundation I wanted to be a sculptor.
What is that has drawn you to the forest in the first place?
During my MA in Photography (2006-2008) and the years that I assisted other photographers (2002-2006) I experimented with all kinds of image making, styles, formats and subject matter. I began working with people in urban or man-made environments, making images that explored the relationship between the camera and the viewer, between subjects within the frame, and the interplay of power within the image.
One day I realised that I could explore these relationships without using people in the photographs. This lead to a body of work call Silent, Dark and Deep (2009). I had always been very interested in feminist discourses on the power of the Gaze, and Satre’s writings on the power and potential of the seen or perceived viewer.
I was interested in transposing the notion of unseen potentiality into the landscape, and at the same time looking at the way ‘landscape’ is an idea, a social construction. Ultimately I wanted to re-establish my own relationship with the landscape. I grew up in the New Forest and spent my childhood in the woods, it was a huge part of my life. In my early 20s I moved to London and missed this relationship; I became a stranger and a visitor, a tourist. I wanted to find my own place in the landscape again, and my work allows me to do this.
“I use the forest spaces like a studio space”
What does the forest represent to you?
The forest is a place of infinite possibilities. I use the forest spaces like a studio space, within which I make interventions which explore my relationship to the landscape and the forest setting.
You’ve been working in UK forests for the past seven years. What is your favorite series and why?
My most recent body of work is always my favorite, because the process of making it is so fresh and new. I made Stars and Between the Trees last year, and am still developing and working with these ideas so they are my focus at the moment. I am looking forward to the spring growth on the trees so that I can start work on them again.
Tell us more about your latest series “stars”, different from some of your earlier work where you have physically interacted with the landscape through alterations and installations…
In this series starscapes taken by the Hubble telescope are interposed within forest landscapes. The images return to the theme of a contemporary distancing from the natural world, juxtaposing the unreachable universe with more tangible woodland spaces.
For me this series feels like less of a departure from my usual process than it might seem. The themes I am exploring, the process of planning, visualisation, utilising the forest scenes and making the images are all a direct continuation of previous work so this series flowed naturally for me.
I think it is important to continue to grow and explore in my work, and this includes using different processes and materials in every series. One series grows out of the next and they are all linked in their subject matter and intention.
Speaking of installations, in those cases, were the installations themselves the art work and photography a way to document them or has photography always been the ultimate step and the art piece itself in your projects?
Photography is always the final step in the process. I see the installations as a crucial part of the work, but ultimately I view my work as landscape photography into which I make my interventions. They are always temporary. I remove all traces of my work at the end of a day in the woods, a ‘leave no trace’ approach.
‘The Dwellings’ series was a departure from this practice because time became an important element of the work. I made large scale, adult sized dens in the woods and came back to photograph them weeks, sometimes months later. I was very involved in the childlike and joyful process of building and making these structures, but I wanted to see how my relationship to them altered over time.
When I returned to photograph the dwellings they had altered from something that was familiar and personal into structures in their own right, often becoming daunting and brooding. They had become ‘other’.
The only other time I have shown my work in a purely sculptural capacity was in 2011. I was commissioned to make my Come with Me 7 installation for a sculpture festival in Devon, UK. This pathway of bracken snaking through the woods was installed, and slowly wilted and died over the duration of the autumn. The organic materials used were slowly reabsorbed into the forest.
Is there any artist you feel closer to?
I love the landscape work of Jem Southam.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am continuing work on my Stars series and have several other projects in the testing stage, we’ll see how those work out in the coming months.
What was the proudest moment of your career?
When I very first starting exhibiting my work I was selected for the New Brewery Arts Open Exhibition, a group exhibition in a vibrant arts centre in Cirencester, UK. I went to the opening and was bowled over to be awarded the Audience Choice Award. At this early stage in my career I was just so astonished and thrilled to be chosen from all the other artists by the visiting public!
Since then I’ve had a number of solo exhibitions in the UK and abroad, and these also stand out as highpoints in my career.