Family Tree – a sculpture and print exhibition by Rafael Klein

Stride_cu_eQuartet_Cathedr_alFamily Tree is a touring exhibition of sculpture and prints exploring the ways we are all connected using the tree as its central metaphor. It has travelled to , Jack House Gallery, Rochester Cathedral, Francis Iles Gallery, and Wells Cathedral, and Portsmouth Cathedral. At Wells there was a related artist talk at the Wells Literature Festival.

The Tree
Leonardo da Vinci, in the 1490s wrote “the heart is the seed which engenders the tree of veins.” The tree is one of humanity’s strongest symbols. From ancient times the image of the tree has resonated with our image of ourselves. The gradual appearance of blossom and leaves, the growth over many years from sapling to giant oak, and the quality of being rooted to the earth, all enable us to identify with the life of a tree.

There are many reasons we relate to and mythologise the tree. From the mythological, through to the more contemporary the tree has formed the basis of a long meditation: the Celtic Green Man; in the Metamorphoses of Ovid both Diana, goddess of the woodland and Daphne, transformed into a bay laurel to escape the advances of Apollo; the Banyan Tree that Buddha sat under.

Not just of our own growth and organic lives but also as a reminder of the sea- sons and of the natural earth, the tree reminds us that, as the psalm says, ‘There is a time for every season under heaven’.

Tree People, from Moment to Moment

Tree People, from Moment to Moment

Her limbs grew numb and heavy, her soft breasts
Were closed with delicate bark, her hair was leaves
Her arms were branches, and her speedy feet
Rooted and held, and her head became a tree top

Metamorphoses, Ovid


The connection to nature symbolised by the tree is also a connection to the world of living things and around us is also inside all of us. The theme of the tree also facilitates exploration of the inter connectedness of our lives with the lives of others. The connection to the tree extends our existence beyond the boundary of our skin and the borders of our time on earth. We are joined with the life of the blades of grass and the beasts both great and small.

Like the branches of a tree, our connections with others flow one into another and unite us. Not just with our blood ties, but also with all of the FAMILY OF MAN
Daedalus_eWe can’t read about the struggles of our brothers and sisters in strife torn regions of the world without feeling touched by them. Not only the connections to our own brothers and sisters but
also to the parents of our friends children. We are touching and overlapping, our lives intersecting in harmony or conflict with so many other lives.
The children in the refugee camps are our children.
The people who have come before us are our grandparents.
The loved ones of others who have passed away are our loss.
When we allow ourselves to be united with the tree we will be unified with the family of man.


Structure of the Project
The proposal is for an exhibition of sculpture and graphic work related to this theme of the family tree. Very large sculptures would be displayed in a public space, e.g. a museum, library, corporate building, cathedral or sculpture park. This would be coordinated with a simultaneous exhibition of smaller sculpture and graphic work at a local art gallery.
A limited edition artists’ book was produced to accompany the exhibition. You can purchase this limited edition hand printed book here.
FamilyTree opened April 17, 2017 at Portsmouth Cathedral and simultaneously at Jack House Gallery in Portsmouth. It ran for five weeks over Easter 2017, before travelling to Rochester Cathedral and the Francis Iles Gallery, Rochester in August 2017, and finally to Wells Cathedral in October 2017 with a related artist talk at the Wells Literature Festival.

More about the tree in my art can be found here