Crystal woods — Yew

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All journal-items with the title ‘Crystal woods’ form a whole. During 2017 until end 2019 I focused my research for nature and life-energy on seven woods in a range of 10 km around my living place Schinveld. In Crystal woods — Introduction one can find global information about this project.

(Photo above: Pieces of wood I found inside old, hollow yew trees in Normandy)

Disunity nature-human; gouache and collage on board, 30×20 cm, 1974

In this small gouache I portray the theme that will run as a thread through all my work, that is the disunity modern humans (myself included) experience due to the separateness from wholeness and off the soul of nature and landscape. The painful awareness of this separateness is a first condition for a transformation towards connectedness.

Sketches in my diary of yew in La Bloutière, Manche, Normandy


This time the subject of the Crystal Woods-journey isn’t a location but a tree, the yew. In the period between 1987 and 1999 I visited many yew trees in Normandy of which some are thousand years old or even more, and often older than the church they grow besides. Already in prehistorical times the yew was seen as a living symbol of transformation, of the perpetual proces of decay, death and new life - the process of transformation, that also defines an essential part of my own creative process during the years.

Sketches of the yew trees at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte and Mont Gardon. The last one unfortunately has been cut down some years ago

In western Europe it was a common tree, that was eliminated however during the middle ages, since its tough and flexible wood was ideal to make cross bows. And because the growing amount of domesticated animals was not able to recognise yew green as poisonous anymore. In the Iron age the region between Rhine and Maas, of which the current South-Limburg is part of, was the tribal area of the Eburones, the tribe of the yew (Ebu-Eibe).

The Earth-Rombus track; A spiral of white sand I made upon the Kollenberg in Sittard, 1996; White quarts I collected on the Fire Hill, 1995

The Earth-Rombus track

From 1994 up to 2000 I represent in the paintings I make under the heading of the ‘Earth-Rombus track’ how I become more conscious of the animated landscape in my own environment. It is a quest for the geo-mythological landscape and the archetypical forces that are hidden therein. Part of this project was the planting of some dozens of yew sprouts in the Schinveld Forest. Now and then I come across one of these yews, that are still small after twenty years, because the toxic green is eaten by roes in winter and early spring.

Twelve yew sprouts; tempera on wood, 70×50 cm, December 2000

Juni 25, 2016: For the first time I visit an old yew forest and some very old yew trees nearby churches in Kent, England (other yew forests one can find in Kingley Vale in the South Downs, and at Wessobrunn nearby München). The complex, fluid shapes in the interior of these trees inspired me to make the subjoined drawing, as if the form language of natural growth was translated by means of my handwriting.

Growth, round; aquarel, charcoal and color pencil on paper, 50×65 cm, Januari 2017

September 28, 2019: Also in my garden the yew tree plays a central role (in the journal Crystal woods — Crystal mountain I wrote about this tree). Today I experience for the first time, standing next to the apple tree that I planted nearby the Irisch Yew, how I’m touched by a subtle-energetic presence, a natural essence, mostly my legs. And during the night I’m aware of vivid vibrations that flow upwards through my feet. I experience in my own body what I express in my paintings, the vibrations that connect the seen and the unseen world.

Present of the oaks (detail