Touche du Bois
Work made during two x two weeks in residence at the Château de Sacy in Picardie, France, July 2020 and June 2021. The Château de Sacy is an organically managed three acre garden which includes a walled kitchen garden. The work was entirely made with materials found on site, with an exhibition of work September 2021.
The following catalogue text by Gabriella Sonabend responds to my work:
Touche du Bois/Touch Wood
Sara Trillo’s exhibition ‘Touch Wood’ evolved from a two-part residency undertaken between the summers of 2020 and 2021, where the artist spent four weeks at Château de Sacy meditatively investigating the local flora and fauna. Reflecting on the history of the land, which once was a focal area for pagan and animist ritual and then became a Christian site of pilgrimage, Trillo is fascinated by the way reverent nature rituals transmuted into superstition through the coopting of sacred space and narrative. Referencing ‘The Golden Bough’ (1890) by James George Frazer, a study of the similarities amongst magical and religious belief globally, Trillo practices her own version of ‘sympathetic magic’, a process of using the intrinsic qualities of materials to activate a deep power.
Trillo’s work is site-specific and intimate. It has developed from listening to local bird calls, scrutinising the sky for subtle weather shifts and the impact of this on the surrounding vegetation, gathering decaying flower heads and fallen fruit, crushing, cracking, simmering her findings to alchemise them into materials. She uses the materials of the gardens of Sacy to reflect the history of the surrounding landscapes drawing connections with the Roman remains at Champlieu and the Forêt d’Halatte. The magic of this process is intensified by the fact that Sacy is an oasis of biodiversity surrounded by miles of monofarmed land.
Trillo uses walnuts for dye and texture, clay dug from the stump of a pine tree to create handmade tools which distribute cherry stones and the petals of lilies and roses to dye an oversized apron and glove. She honours an ephemeral matrilineal history of craft and handiwork whilst referencing specific stories such as Jean Cocteau's film La Belle et La Bête which uses the metaphor of the glove to speak of protection and transformation. Here Trillo’s glove reflects the distance between humanity and the natural world; a longing to hold and collect, combined with a fear of our role within nature.
Unlike a herbarium where plants are preserved and pressed for study, Trillo’s process does not seek to preserve but rather to activate the essence of each specimen using them to anoint and imbue with ritual. She creates imagined votives and artefacts which are missing from the vitrines full of weaponry and metal objects in museums. Hers are the kind of tools that tenderly cultivate the land and once used are returned back to the soil to be repurposed and processed by earth worms and root networks.
For ‘Touch Wood’ this new body of works are exhibited in a bergerie (sheep house) at Château de Sacy, where the high stone structure evokes the feeling of an ancient chapel, the manger holding the space of an altar, the creamy white walls speaking of processes of ritual cleansing. The title of the exhibition plays on ideas of superstition whilst nodding to the gardeners who maintain the land, the hands that so tenderly keep the balance of these small ecosystems who are never mentioned in the historical accounts of great estates.