“You’re just a good-for-nothing ailanthus stump sprout,” Yin’s grandmother had told her when she was still young enough to worry about monsters in the cupboard at the end of the hallway. It was just one in a line of recriminations – Yin was rude, irresponsible, she would never grow into something great.
It could have gone either way, Yin realised, years later. She might have faded into one of those invisible types whose bodies curve and cower – who seem to apologise for so much as breathing. But her grandmother had underestimated her. She wasn’t an ailanthus stump; she had grown tall and true, and like the ailanthus she was hardy and defiant. The Tree of Heaven was a survivor: it could breathe in pollution, navigate concrete, thrive in the city shadows.
Yin wished, sometimes, that her grandmother could see her now – a woman wearing a smart grey dress and kitten heels, a briefcase in one hand, a smile on her lips, comfortable in the city streets.
Inspired by the mythology and growing habits of the Tree of Heaven. London Fieldworks have created two sculptural installations drawing on the ecology and biodiversity of Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea, and Duncan Terrace, Islington. Both have been installed in Ailanthus altissima trees; known as the ‘Tree of Heaven’