Near the Fairy Creek blockade, artist Jeremy Herndl paints and advocates for 1000-year-old trees
'In British Columbia there's less than three per cent of the productive, low-lying ancient forests remaining'
Update: On the morning of June 9th, the RCMP dismantled the blockade at the Eden Grove encampment. Jessie Demers, curator of the Eden Grove Artist in Residence Project, says that the residency will carry on with artists working in the forest "as long as they are not impeded by the RCMP."
In an effort to protect British Columbia's last stands of old-growth forest from logging, artists are being brought into the temperate rainforests on south western Vancouver Island to make art inspired by these ancient trees.
Jeremy Herndl spent two months in Eden Grove, an original forest on Edinburgh Mountain north of Port Renfrew, B.C. During his time, he created six feet-by-five foot portraits of large trees, some predicted to be more than 1000 years old.
"Painting a portrait is a very intimate experience," says Herndl. "When you are looking at something and touching it with your eye and then looking at the painting and touching that spot with your paint at the same time, there is this intimate conversation with this tree."
Herndl is the first artist participating in the Eden Grove Artist in Residence program, a wilderness immersive residency founded on the intersections of art, ecology, activism and culture. The residency is located near the Eden Grove forest protection camp — one of multiple blockades established by the Rainforest Flying Squad to stop road building and logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.
"The ancient forests haven't been logged," Herndl explains about the difference between an ancient or old-growth forest compared to a second- or third-growth forest. "In British Columbia there's less than three per cent of the productive, low-lying ancient forests remaining."
The protection camps started in August 2020 and have been growing in both numbers and scale. On April 1st the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to forestry company Teal-Jones to remove the blockades and the RCMP began enforcing that injunction on May 18th. Upon publication, the RCMP have not yet enforced the injunction at Eden protection camp and therefore the nearby artist residency is still underway.
Herndl has completed his residency, but artists Kyle Scheurmann, Heather Kai Smith and Mike Andrew McLean are taking a turn making art in this ancient forest. This CBC Arts video shows Jeremy painting his third large tree portrait of an ancient cedar tree as he shares his feelings about his art being a form of advocacy for the forest.