kendal murray

In the Smile of a Tree

Flinders Lane Gallery 27/09/2022

The exhibition "In the Smile of a Tree" looks at the significant relationship between childhood play in nature, children's well-being, and the cultivation of their environmental identity. The mixed-media sculptures in the exhibition work as time capsules, offering glimpses into childhood adventures in the natural world as they discover places to hide, explore and imagine.

A child's relationship with the environment begins with the experience of 'place'. Children connect with the natural world's sensory-stimulating forms and structures and respond to them physically and imaginatively through exploration and play, giving them personal meanings and interpretations. Tactile play in natural spaces filled with mystery offers endless creative possibilities. The free-flowing ideas of imaginative play can transform a tree, rocks, sticks, pebbles, leaves and flowers into tools, food, money, or other props used for pretend play, another factor in cultivating environmental identity.

Trees offer a meaningful presence in nurturing environmental identity and are linked to our favourite places. Symbols of life and growth, the mastery of a tree's climbable limbs, offers pleasure and significance to the young imagination and the physical expression of who we are or want to become.

Memories of the best climbing trees of our youth or the swing attached to the strong limbs of a grand old tree that offered us delight and assurance in its strength fill us with pleasure. We might have special memories of helping a parent or grandparent plant a tree and then watching it grow to offer shelter and play under its generous branches, a sanctuary over the summer holidays.

When positive environmental experiences are shared and valued with significant people in their lives, childhood memories of pleasurable and fascinating interactions with natural places builds a child's environmental identity and will impact how they experience and value the environment into adulthood.

Kendal Murray, 2022