Land artist James Brunt inspires the next generation with all-natural outdoor art

Land artist James Brunt inspires the next generation with all-natural outdoor art

By Michael Upton | 08/02/2019

Land artist James Brunt inspires the next generation with all-natural outdoor art

IF YOU go down in the woods today, be careful where you tread...

Fail to look where you’re placing your feet and you might destroy a newly-created work of art.

Because Rotherham’s own James Brunt (pictured below unveiling artwork he has produced with Wath Central Primary pupils) is carving out an impressive niche in temporary creations formed entirely from natural materials — most often leaves, twigs and pebbles.

Last week, he enlisted Todwick Primary children to great effect, producing a circular pattern in the overnight frost left on the school playing field.

Brunt works largely without a studio — unless you count woodlands and beaches — although he does also produce eye-catching displays for inside display by recreating natural features, such as an array of dozens of clay leaves.

Usually the finished article is small-scale, left to the mercy of the wind and rain, but Brunt was also among the team which transformed the huge front lawn of Wentworth Woodhouse with a giant spray-painted “cascade” immortalising the area’s history.

The design, inspired by the idea of a bubbles streaming from the mansion, was created specially for last year’s Tour de Yorkshire and shown on TV when filmed from the sky.

It also won a Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Award, but eventually succumbed as intended to the rain.

Brunt’s work — which is amassing an ever-larger social media following on his Twitter page — will soon have an audience of millions as he has been picked to produce a between-shows “ident” clip for ITV as part of a project to spotlight promising artists. 

But his focus will be closer to home next week as he displays his creations during a residence at Rotherham’s Old Market Gallery from next Monday to Friday, complete with a talk for the public at 4.30pm on Wednesday.

Those attending will get a chance to see a new work from Brunt in progress, while finding out more about his creative process.

Artwork James created in the frost with pupils from Todwick Primary

Brunt, a dad of two from North Anston, said he aimed to produce a new piece of work every day of the five-day residency and was happy for anyone visiting the gallery to have a chat about his art and possibly even join in.

He revealed that when he is out and about in the woods, passers-by sometimes help him complete his all-natural designs.

Circles are a recurring theme in Brunt’s art — something he says helps to reduce the number of creative decisions he has to make when starting a new work — and he is keen to ensure he does not go off the beaten track and disturb nature, usually working on established pathways or clearings.

A woodland-based pattern can take anything up to three hours, and one of his carefully-balanced beach displays up to twice as long, but all of them, once photographed for posterity (and social media) are left to the elements.

“I like the temporary nature of it, to be honest,” says Brunt. “I don’t have a problem letting them go.”

Brunt, who runs a forest school at Todwick, is also passionate about involving others, especially children, in producing his land art, revealing that he inspired by his young helpers who “see things in a way I otherwise wouldn’t”.

One such example is the collection of clay oak leaves formed through public workshops in Barnsley but also largely created by pupils at Wath Central Primary School, who invited parents to the big reveal of their installation in school on Monday.

The hundreds of air-dried leaves, which are displayed in the school’s immersive outdoor-inspired work space, will eventually disintegrate but working on them has left an impression on the young artists. 

Brunt adds: “I think it’s really important to get them outside and doing things about the outside world.”

He also encourage other would-be artists to follow their passion, adding: “I started out after the financial crisis and artists were saying their were struggling for jobs but I think it you have the motivation and creativity you will make it happen.”