Withdrawn is a new artwork by Luke Jerram located in Leigh Woods near Bristol. He is a very talented public artist, who seems to come up with ideas that grip the public imagination and spread, for example with his ‘Play Me I’m Yours’ street pianos.

This project is similar, a little surreal with things made extraordinary by being out of place, in this case a flotilla of disused fishing boats resting in a green wood rather than bobbing on a blue sea.

It has been commissioned by the National Trust, working in partnership with Forestry Commission England as part of Bristol 2015. Jerram has had a long fascination with our relationship to the sea. For him, this celebrates the mystery of the sea while challenging our perception of it as a never-ending resource. Presumably, he means that it has been a resource for our food. Now, overfishing and ocean acidification (because of climate change) are threatening this food supply, while mismanagement of quotas and big fisheries are causing the decline of small independent fishing businesses.

Another set of questions that arises is the link between forestry and the material needed to construct boats. John Evelyn’s treatise ‘Sylva’ in 1664 introduced the idea of sustainability. He realised that Britain was being deforested in order to build ships to float imperial exploration, that replanting for posterity was needed. I like this project but think that it would be completed conceptually and more effective ecologically if the link between boats and trees, climate change and forests, overfishing and deforestation, was more strongly made. It seems to rely on the surreal juxtaposition for its effect. Maybe these other questions will arise in response to the work, let’s hope.


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