The Listening Forest

Drawings, prints, paper cuts & poems by Sophie Herxheimer, 2 Nov 2015 – 6 Feb 2016

The Listening Forest by Sophie Herxheimer.
The Listening Forest by Sophie Herxheimer.

If you’re a dolt and sing insipid
songs to Nature, She’ll eat you.

Like Ivan, you must demand
a hot bath, a hot dinner

then She’ll wink, and you’ll
get along just fine.

from ‘Disturbing Mother’ by Sophie Herxheimer

Sophie Herxheimer’s exhibition The Listening Forest brings nodding fronds, a car salesman newt and a thousand trampolining warblers to The Poetry Café, London, from Mon 2 Nov 2015 – Thu 4  Feb 2016.

Join us at a free celebratory reading with Sophie and guest poets Karen McCarthy Woolf, Alison Winch and Chris McCabe in the Poetry Cafe on 17 December.

Also book for a one-day workshop – Hide and Seek in the Ideas Forest: Poetry & Picture Making – for verbal and visual artists alike – encouraging you to experiment with some of Sophie’s approaches to loosening poems and pictures from streets and trees. Saturday 30th Jan 2016, 11am – 5pm. In collaboration with the Poetry School.

Herxheimer’s drawings, prints, paper cuts and poems were inspired by her residency in 2014-15, with the rural arts organisation Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, Northamptonshire. During her residency, she collected and drew ‘live’, as they were recounted, stories that people in the area told her about the woods . Everyone who provided a tale was immediately furnished with a same-size photocopy.

She says, “Coming from the plastic-bag flapping ’70s of punky, pre-cappuccino London, I’d never focused on nature as a subject, my natural habitats being kitchens, bus stops and cinemas.

“The small team at Fermynwoods liked my story collecting project – a system I’ve evolved over the past ten years, in which I listen to people one to one, and synthesise the essence of their story into text and image with black ink and a paintbrush.

“When I visited nearby Corby, I was struck by the contrast of its bleak and standardised shopping precinct and its woodlands, both of which occupy great swathes of the town centre. I was interested in the relationship of the people to the trees and where the urban and the natural worlds intersect, inside and outside the mind.

“I collected stories at the Fermynwoods Country Park Café, a transport gala and the coppicing volunteers’ log cabin. I joined friends’ groups on litter picks and went for very long solitary walks. In the evenings I made myself weird tasty dinners that no one else would like, got the wood burner going, then spent hours drawing, painting, doing nothing and the washing up, writing poems and notes about the sensations of the day. What a privileged timeless time.”

Herxheimer’s story-drawings are exhibited alongside the drawings, paintings and poems that were inspired by her own experiences of forest living in the forest. The book, The Listening Forest, published to accompany the residency, will be on sale during the exhibition, price £12. The limited edition version – a thirty-metre, screenprinted concertina book, made in collaboration with Henningham Family Press, London – is £450.

About the artist

Sophie Herxheimer is an artist and poet. She has held residencies for LIFT, Southbank Centre and Transport for London and her work has been exhibited at The Whitworth, Manchester, and The Poetry Library and The National Portrait Gallery, London. She has illustrated five fairytale collections, made several artists books, created a 300-metre tablecloth featuring hand printed food stories from a thousand Londoners, that ran the length of Southwark Bridge; narrated an episode of Radio 4’s The Food Programme from Margate, made a life-size concrete poem in the shape of Mrs Beeton sited next to her grave; and a pie big enough for seven drama students to jump out of singing, on the lawn of an old people’s home. Recent publications include Over The Line and The New Concrete. Sophie teaches and collaborates extensively.

Please note, The Poetry Café will be closed for Christmas and New Year, dates tbc, please check The Poetry Society website for details.

A Winter’s Night’s Drinks in the Forest, The Poetry Café, 17 December 2015

Launch event and reading, 4 November 2014