Into the woods: Radiohead's in-house artist captures Britain's hidden forest walks

Stanley Donwood was in the studio with Radiohead when he was inspired to paint holloways, the "cathedrals of nature"

'I was in the studio with Radiohead while they were recording King of Limbs and, as the music played, I got this impression of a cathedral of sound, this beautiful overarching music, and I felt it deserved to be played in a cathedral – not in a cathedral of religion, but a cathedral of nature," explains Stanley Donwood.

Donwood is an artist and the creator of Radiohead's album artwork since The Bends in 1995. "It got me thinking about how the ceiling tracery and fluted columns of churches owe their form to the interlocked branches and tree trunks of the forest. I decided I wanted to free that imagery from religion and give it back to nature."

He began to paint trees. Stridently colourful trees in oils and spray paints, with black mists dancing between them and creatures permeating through the darkness. And as he progressed, the idea began to branch in new directions and grow into something larger.

"Soon after I began working on a book with [the writers] Robert Macfarlane and Dan Richards, based on our experiences camping and walking in the holloways of Dorset," says Donwood.

"These holloways are hidden footpaths created by tunnels of interlocked branches. I had read about one in particular, which formed the basis of a description in Geoffrey Household's 1939 novel, Rogue Male, and the idea of this holloway fascinated me so much I wanted to experience what it was like to be within it."

The book became Holloway, which was later picked up by Faber and Faber for a wider release. Donwood created the illustrations. Gone were the colours and the ghosts of his Radiohead work, and instead Donwood produced very straight depictions of holloways in pencil and ink and in a limited palette of black and white (though it was limited partly through necessity, as the way it was printed – on a Heidelberg platen press – restricted the colour choice).

The idea had shifted. But Donwood's process remained the same.

"They are all experiential renderings of the forests I camped in and walked through, they are images that have gone through a filter of time and a filter of my own imagination," he explains.

Later, after Faber published Holloway, Dan Richards returned to Household's holloway to record 24 hours of audio in the tunnels. When he got there, he found it had gone.

"It had been completely taken apart, destroyed by machines," says Donwood. "It was a microcosm of what is happening globally. We are losing our natural habitats. When Dan discovered that the holloway had disappeared, I realised that through the artwork I was carving its gravestone."

These aren't pretty pictures of the forest. They aren't just pictures full stop. Now hung together in an exhibition at The Outsiders Gallery, the body of work is as much a physical experience as a visual one. It takes you into those tunnels of trees, into those natural cathedrals, and challenges you to make sense of it all.

"The whole idea is that we, as a species, spent so much time in the forests," says Donwood. This is his attempt to take us back there.

'Stanley Donwood: Far Away is Close at Hand in Images of Elsewhere' is at The Outsiders Gallery, London W1, to 19 October; slowlydownward.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
The Vienna State Opera
opera
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'
musicLilly Wood and Robin Schulz bag number one single
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories