Old Oak Tree

Darwin’s tree: the Eureka moment

Tania Kovats’ TREE will be unveiled at the Natural History Museum tomorrow. It’s a special commission for Darwin 200. In an interview with Tom Bailey for RSA Arts & Ecology, she talks about the process of thought that led her to take a thin section from a 200-year-old oak tree. There’s one great section in which she mentions the extraordinary page from Darwin’s notebook,  in which he’s written “I think”, then drawn his first representation of the evolutionary “tree of life”, and then about what it makes her aspire to as an artist:

What, if any, other artistic interpretations of evolutionary theory, or natural history, have influenced your work?

The I think drawing is definitely a drawing that I’ve been compelled by for quite a long time, partly because of how amazingly well it describes a moment of conception. It’s like the idea is happening in front of you when you look at that drawing. In drawing there’s an exchange between thought and the mark that you make, the drawing becomes a trace of that moment. So I think that drawing is so exciting, partly because it’s also very simple. The thing that compels me about Darwin’s evolutionary theory is that you have a really simple answer to a very big, complex question. A lot of the artworks that I feel are strongest (and I strive to do this in my own work) are incredibly simple in essence, but may have many complex readings that can be projected onto them. A dumb art work is one that you can usually talk about the longest. An artwork that has something very simple at its core then lends itself to constant reflection, and lots of layering can go on.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology