The Heysen – The Courier

The legacy of a historic tree that once stood sentinel alongside the studio of renowned local artist Hans Heysen has been preserved in ink.

Hills artists Cathy Gray of Bridgewater and Karen Judd of Hahndorf have made prints of the cross-section of one of the pine trees, known as the guardians, that formerly surrounded Heysen’s studio at his Hahndorf home, The Cedars.

Estimated to be as old as 150 years, the pine tree was felled about two years ago because it was at risk of falling on the studio.

Ms Gray said the prints preserved the story of the tree and the people who enjoyed it.

“You have to think back to everything that’s impacted the tree – how nature’s impacted it,” she said.

“Whether it be bugs that have embedded into it, the soil, drought … you’ve got to think, all those families that sat under that three and their stories.

“These trees were known as the guardians of The Cedars, so (Hans Heysen) would have sat in his studio and painted and (it would have) given him inspiration.

“His family of eight children lived here so they would have had picnics underneath there.”

An established artist, Ms Gray met Mrs Judd through Hills sport and the pair began experimenting with taking prints from trunk cross-sections about 18 months ago.

But it took them about six months of “trial and error” to before they perfected the art.

They only take prints from trees that have already been felled or fallen down and the process involves taking a cross section of the trunk, planing and sanding it back and burning it to enhance the tree rings before covering it with ink.

They then use pressure to lift the print onto canvass or paper.

They take 10 prints from every tree, spaced over a period of time, and Ms Gray said the wood often changed slightly in the intervals between

prints, meaning no two prints were ever the same. The Heysen tree has a special significance for Mrs Judd, whose grandmother’s adoptive parents owned The Cedars before selling it to Hans and Sallie Heysen in 1912.

But Ms Gray said there were a range of reasons that a tree print may be significant.

“They all have an amazing story with them – this is a tremendous story being a Heysen piece – but we have other pieces too that also have great stories.

“Trees have been planted in memory of people … people plant trees when babies are born – there’s lots of reasons trees get planted, so they’re really nature’s footprint.”

One of the prints of the Heysen tree will be on display at The Cedars throughout March.