REFLECTION: PART 4 ENVIRONMENTAL INTERVENTIONS Project 2 – Interacting with the environment

REFLECTION: PART 4: ENVIRONMENTAL INTERVENTIONS

Project 2: Interacting with the environment

‘Interacting with the ‘real world’ was a very peaceful experience. It took me a little time to feel any kind of affinity in terms of creating art work and I think this highlighted the difference between this interaction and the usual drawing or painting. When I’m drawing in the environment I’m somehow separate, I’m the bystander looking in, I’m the person making judgements. Interacting in the environment is very different. You need to be part of the environment, you need to enter into a different world and a different time frame. With all of the pieces, I spent some time just wandering around, looking, feeling, enjoying, noticing and not making any judgements. I allowed the environment to take me in.

What appealed to me was the garden ‘rubbish’ – dead leaves and flowers etc. My interventions were very small and I wasn’t trying to create structures of any sort. All of the interactions were quite momentary and didn’t last long as the weather interfered but nevertheless, I felt they were significant in my appreciation of the environment. I felt that I didn’t impose anything of my world onto the space.

The work of Andy Goldsworthy goes much deeper than this. Even though I enjoyed the interactions, I didn’t feel to really make the connections with the earth and the processes of life which are so apparent in his work. I’ve studied three books of photographs of his work – ‘Enclosure’, ‘Wood’ and ‘Time’ as well as listening to him talking about his work – and his connection and response to the environment is truly inspiring. Even though many of the sculptures bring about a visual change, I feel that he remains a servant to nature. His palette is nature itself and he uses every element he finds to express its beauty and changing nature.

The part played by photography is an interesting one in his work as it is with Richard Long. Without the use of photography, it is difficult to see how the viewer could experience the sculptures. I think photography can tend to reduce the work to decoration and this is a pity and certainly does not reflect the deep sense of affinity which he has with the earth. Somehow the photograph cannot capture the ‘process element’ which involves his love for the materials, his affinity to place, the extraordinary patience and humble acceptance of his own limitation within nature’s cycle. What the photograph can contribute however is a wider circulation of his work, allowing so many people to enjoy the sculptures.

Richard Long interacts with his environment in a different way. All of the same involvement and connection is there but he uses the process of walking as his medium. He loves making long solitary walks during which he makes connections with the environment. His interaction is through walking and so time and distance become integral to the work. One of the memorable features of his work for me is his use of text. I visited one of his exhibitions some years ago and I found the very individual way he uses text memorable. There were some exhibits where he didn’t use photographs at all, just words, and this was just as descriptive. He also uses the gallery space to exhibit the work and it was a real experience to actually see his sculptures rather than just in photographs.

I also looked at some other artists in this genre:…

Nils-Udo – from artist’s statement….Sketching with flowers, painting with clouds, writing with water. Tracing the May wind, the path of a falling leaf..

Natural space experienced through hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting and touching.

…to transform the spaces of Nature into the spaces of Art…

 David Nash

Richard Shilling

Wolfgang Laib… German conceptual artist 1950… considers nature as something to be experienced through the senses …as a space for activity and contemplation uses the material but his work is a about natural materials being a comment on the spiritual and natural. Work mark for its serenity …uses natural products such as milk, pollen, rice and beeswax, all selected for their purity and symbolic associations. …”pollen is the potential beginning of the life of the plant. It is as simple, as beautiful and as complex as this. And of course it has so many meanings…”

 

How do you think the way the viewer experiences this kind of art differs from looking at drawings framed under glass?

As far as the interactions in my garden, I think that the viewer would experience the same kind of reaction to looking at drawings except for one element and that is, that in the garden, there is the element of chance. One comes across these images accidentally and so I think there is the added element of surprise and I guess delight because it is unexpected. You are seeing something which has been put there as a piece of art. It is difficult to create the unexpected for a drawing under glass.

Do you think that viewers will necessarily know that what you’ve done is art?

No. But if art is about giving a feeling of delight, a different viewpoint, even dare I say it, a laugh or two, then perhaps it is all about art. I think that if the artist’s role is to share their view of the world then this certainly is art.

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About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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