Artistic Representation of Nature Essay
One of the main qualities of visual art is that it allows people to get in touch with the surrounding physical reality through the perceptual lenses of another person’s mind – hence, making it possible for the spectators to experience the sensation of aesthetic pleasure. 1 The derived pleasure often proves particularly intense when the art piece in question is inspired by the works of nature, or when it is concerned with depicting the natural environment.
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This simply could not be otherwise – nature has always served as an important source of creative inspiration for many generations of artists. The actual explanation for this has to do with the innermost essence of art, as the instrument for amplifying the pleasurable aspects of one’s ‘experience of being’. 2 When exposed to the elements, most people naturally grow to feel aesthetically overwhelmed – especially when surrounded by some breathtaking scenery. In its turn, this triggers several artistic anxieties in them – hence, prompting the affected individuals to consider creating art, or to act ‘artfully’. 3
Nevertheless, even though nature does inspire artists more or less equally, how they channel their fascination with the natural environment vary rather substantially. The most logical explanation as to why this is being the case is that just about any nature-inspired work of art is reflective of the specifics of ‘mental wiring, on the part of its creator. 4 What this means is that it is possible to experience the aesthetic thrill of observing ‘nature art’, and to gain certain insights into the innermost workings of the affiliated artist’s mentality. To substantiate the validity of this suggestion, I will discuss some nature-depicting paintings by Janaina Tschape and Katherine Del Barton.
Janaina Tschape is a German-born artist, who had spent her formative years in Brazil, and who now resides in New York. She is known for her willingness to experiment with the innovative artistic techniques, as well as for the prominent impressionist quality of many of her artworks. 5 Tschape’s painting Winter stands out as a perfect example in this respect.
Even a glance at this artwork will reveal that by working on it, the artist was the least concerned with trying to ensure the lifelikeness of what is being depicted. Rather, she strived to provide the visualization of the whole range of her feelings, invoked by the snowy weather outside of the window. Partially, this explains a certain nebulosity of the author’s artistic representations of a cloudy sky, trees, water in the river, bridge, and some watery streaks on the window.
After all, it does take some time observing Tschape’s painting to realize that the cloud-like objects in the artwork’s upper part are indeed clouds and not the crowns of some trees, for example. This, however, is exactly what contributes towards strengthening the impression that the depicted objects are in a state of some elusive motion. The unmistakably ‘cold’ palette of the featured colors does its work helping to establish a proper perceptual mood in onlookers. 6
Tschape did not merely strive to ‘catch the moment’ while creating this painting, but also to present its discursive motifs being inseparable from her sense of individuality – hence, the earlier mentioned impressionist appearance of the analyzed art piece. In a certain sense, the artist’s personality is being objectified within the compositional elements of the painting, which implies that Winter is as much about the author herself, as it is about the portrayal of the snowy landscape in the distance. Essentially the same applies to Tschape’s other painting Clouds .
As we can see in it, the depicted clouds resemble the real ones only formally. However, while exposed to this painting, one is likely to experience the realistic sensation of standing under the cloudy sky. Just as it is the case with the earlier mentioned painting , Clouds presents viewers with the strongly personalized artistic account of nature – hence, the presence of bright yellow color amidst the otherwise ‘cold’ ones. In the painting, they codify the hidden ‘clusters of meaning’, which the audience members are expected to be able to ‘decipher’. 7 It is namely while ‘deciphering’ the artwork’s implicit semiotics that viewers can experience the feeling of aesthetic excitement. This excitement will prove particularly intense in those individuals who know a thing or two about the theory of art.
In light of what has been said earlier, it will be appropriate to suggest that Tschape tends to use the images of nature in her works as the vehicles for promoting her own highly subjective understanding of what accounts for the effects of one’s exposure to the surrounding natural environment on the formation of his or her attitudes towards life. Thus, it will only be logical to assume that Tschape’s interrelationship with nature is marked by the artist’s unconscious tendency to think of nature’s expressions as such that serve the purpose of helping her become increasingly enlightened, as to what accounts for human life.
For Tschape, nature is much more of an abstract idea of some omnipresent potency than merely the object of one’s aesthetic admiration. This provides us with a rationale to suggest that both paintings reflect the aesthetic workings of Tschape’s ‘Faustian’ psyche 8 – the artist regards nature to be the actual key to discovering the innate principles of how the universe operates, even without being aware of it consciously. Therefore, there is nothing too odd about the apparent whimsicalness of the artist’s style – it is yet another indication of Tschape’s innate predisposition towards trying to achieve some sort of intellectual enlightenment by the mean of subjecting the surrounding nature to her emotionally driven aesthetic inquiry.
The artworks of Del Kathryn Barton (an Australian artist, who lives in Sydney 9 ) are concerned with the deployment of the entirely different methodological approach to depicting nature, as compared to that of Tschape. The most notable difference in this regard is that whereas the works of the latter connote ‘motion’, Barton’s paintings are best described as ‘motionless’, in the representational sense of this word.
Partially, this can be explained by the reference being made to the technical details of how Barton’s artistic masterpieces come into being, “Her (Barton’s) paintings show an obsession with meticulous mark-making; from minuscule dotting to veins on leaves and strands of hair. Being that the production process for her larger paintings is extremely labor-intensive”. 10 To exemplify that this is indeed the case, we can refer to the artist’s painting Animals , as seen below.
What immediately comes into one’s eye, regarding the subtleties of Barton’s artistic style, is that they are strongly ornamental. That is, the author made a deliberate point of using bright colors to increase the anthropomorphic appeal of the depicted animals – the aesthetic technique commonly used by the Aboriginal people in Australia. 11 The impression that Barton’s artwork was indeed inspired by the legacy of Aboriginal art is strengthened even further by the visual and thematic idealization of nature, 12 achieved through the application of the tiny bits of paint to the canvas throughout its entirety.
Given the sheer amount of time, required to create artworks like Animals , the discussed painting cannot be deemed quite as spontaneous and ‘moody’, as it is the case with Tschape’s Winter and Clouds . At the same time, however, there are a few similarities between the aesthetic strategies of both artists. The most distinctive of them is that, just as it appears to be the case with Tschape, Barton tends to treat the emanations of nature as being highly symbolical and allegorical. The artist’s painting Birds can be considered as yet another proof in this regard.
That is, nature for Barton is more of an abstract idea than something that can be experienced and enjoyed as a ‘thing in itself’. While observing Barton’s art, people are also required to solve a mental puzzle as to what accounts for the proper approach to interpreting this art’s symbolical denotations. Thanks to the artist, there is nothing too challenging about the task. The pale coloring of human hands (one of the compositional elements in both Barton’s paintings), as well as how they are portrayed, implies that Barton uses her art as a medium for channeling the message of environmental friendliness to people. According to this message, people must aspire to live in perfect harmony with nature.
There is, however, even more to it. As it can be confirmed regarding the mentioned paintings by Barton, just about every depicted object in them is shown visually interlocking with the rest, which results in increasing the measure of both paintings’ holistic integrity. This specific effect is brought about by the fact that, despite the elaborative detailing of each component in Barton’s paintings, all of the featured elements (including the tiniest ones) are perceived as the integral parts of a whole.
Therefore, there is nothing accidental about the presence of Aboriginal motifs in Barton’s artworks – the specifics of the artist’s conceptualization of nature correlates well with the provisions of Non-Western ‘perceptual holism’, which stands in opposition to the Western (object-oriented) outlook on the natural environment and one’s place in it. 13
Thus, there is indeed a good reason to believe that the significance of a particular artistic representation of nature should be discussed in conjunction with what accounts for the affiliated artist’s psycho-cognitive predispositions, which define the qualitative aspects of this person’s aesthetic stance. This concluding remark is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis. There can be no ‘pure art’ 14 – just about every form of artistic expression is symptomatic of its originator’s psychological predilection – just as it was implied in the paper’s introductory part.
One of this conclusion’s possible implications is that, as time goes on, the positivist theories of art, based on the assumption that there are universally recognized ‘canons’ in the artistic domain, will continue to fall out of favor with more and more people. 15 The dialectical laws of history predetermine such an eventual development.
Chakravarty, Ambar. “The Neural Circuitry of Visual Artistic Production and Appreciation: A Proposition.” Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology 15, no. 2 (2012): 71-75.
Currie, Gregory. “Actual Art, Possible Art, and Art’s Definition.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68, no. 3 (2010): 235-241.
Davey, E. R. “‘Soft Framing’: A Comparative Aesthetics of Painting and Photography.” Journal of European Studies 30, no. 118 (2000): 133-155.
De Lorenzo, Catherine. “The Hang and Art History.” Journal of Art Historiography no. 13 (2015): 1-17.
Galenson, David. “The Life Cycles of Modern Artists: Theory and Implications.” Historical Methods 37, no. 3 (2004): 123-136.
Hawkins, Celeste. “ Del Kathryn Barton. ” The Art and the Curious , 2015. Web.
Leslie, Donna. “Seeing the Natural World Art & Reconciliation.” Art Monthly Australia no. 258 (2013): 30-33.
McClelland, Kenneth. “John Dewey: Aesthetic Experience and Artful Conduct Education and Culture.” Education and Culture 21, no. 2 (2005): 44-62.
Murphy, Margueritte. “Pure Art, Pure Desire: Changing Definitions of l’Art Pour l’Art from Kant to Gautier.” Studies in Romanticism 47, no. 2 (2008): 147-160.
Pearse, Emma. “Janaina Tschape.” ARTnews 104, no. 9 (2005): 184-185.
Tekiner, Deniz. “Formalist Art Criticism and the Politics of Meaning.” Social Justice 33, no. 2 (2006): 31-44.
Thomas, Daniel. “Aboriginal Art: Who Was Interested?” Journal of Art Historiography no. 4 (2011): 1-10.
Vasilenko, Ivan. “Dialogue of Cultures, Dialogue of Civilizations.” Russian Social Science Review 41, no. 2 (2000): 5-22.
Wilson, Henry. “Pleasure Palettes.” World of Interiors 30, no. 1 (2010): 58-67.
Young, Michael. “Del Kathryn Barton: Disco Darling.” Art and AsiaPacific no. 96 (2015): 68-69.
- Gregory Currie, “Actual Art, Possible Art, and Art’s Definition.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68, no. 3 (2010): 237.
- Kenneth McClelland, “John Dewey: Aesthetic Experience and Artful Conduct Education and Culture.” Education and Culture 21, no. 2 (2005): 46.
- E. R. Davey, “‘Soft Framing’: A Comparative Aesthetics of Painting and Photography.” Journal of European Studies 30, no. 118 (2000): 138.
- Ambar Chakravarty, “The Neural Circuitry of Visual Artistic Production and Appreciation: A Proposition.” Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology 15, no. 2 (2012): 72.
- Emma Pearse, “Janaina Tschape.” ARTnews, 104, no. 9 (2005):185.
- Henry Wilson, “Pleasure Palettes.” World of Interiors 30, no. 1 (2010): 65.
- David Galenson, “The Life Cycles of Modern Artists: Theory and Implications.” Historical Methods 37, no. 3 (2004): 129.
- Ivan Vasilenko, “Dialogue of Cultures, Dialogue of Civilizations.” Russian Social Science Review 41, no. 2 (2000): 10.
- Michael Young, “Del Kathryn Barton: Disco Darling.” Art and AsiaPacific 96 (2015) 68.
- Celeste Hawkins, “Del Kathryn Barton.” The Art and the Curious , 2015. Web.
- Daniel Thomas, “Aboriginal Art: Who Was Interested?” Journal of Art Historiography no. 4 (2011): 14.
- Catherine De Lorenzo, “The Hang and Art History.” Journal of Art Historiography no. 13 (2015): 5.
- Donna Leslie, “Seeing the Natural World Art & Reconciliation.” Art Monthly Australia no. 258 (2013): 32.
- Margueritte Murphy, “Pure Art, Pure Desire: Changing Definitions of l’Art Pour l’Art from Kant to Gautier.” Studies in Romanticism 47, no. 2 (2008): 147.
- Deniz Tekiner, “Formalist Art Criticism and the Politics of Meaning.” Social Justice 33, no. 2 (2006): 33.
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Humans in Nature
The Importance of Nature in Art
People use art to help their well-being but also to draw attention to societal changes and issues. The combination of art and nature allows people to explore the natural world, create more profound meaning for themselves, and connect people through understanding and viewing their artwork. This article will discuss the importance of integrating art and nature and how various artists used nature to inspire them.
Throughout time, artists have used nature as a muse or motivation for creating different forms of art. Nature can provide endless forms of inspiration, and it can be a critical theme in many forms of artwork. Henry Matisse said, “An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.” Artists use nature to express themselves but also to understand their work and themselves on a deeper level. To do this, artists may even use nature within their creations, such as wood, clay, water, and graphite, which are all-natural mediums.
There has also been some research done on the importance of art and nature to the well-being of others. Thomson et al. (2020) found that creative green prescription programs, which combine arts- and nature-based activities, can significantly impact the psychosocial well-being of adult mental health service clients. They recommended that museums with parks and gardens blend programs to incorporate nature, art, and well-being. Kang et al. (2021) found that nature-cased group art therapy positively affects siblings of children with disabilities. This type of art therapy increased their resistance to disease and their self-esteem while alleviating stress.
The Jan Van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands has opened a lab for artists to do their own nature research. They created a facility to support woodworking, printmaking, photography, video, and metalwork while allowing artists to explore their work and relationship with nature. This lab gives the artists a chance to consider nature in various ways, including its relation to ecological and landscape development issues to begin to bridge a gap between humankind, nature, and art. There needs to be more scientific research on the importance of nature and art; however, we see that artists are already beginning to research how nature affects their work and overall mindset.
How have artists used nature in their work?
Renowned artist Vincent van Gogh, was able to bring aspects of nature to life in his paintings. His work has allowed people to understand nature in different forms and bring people together. A recent exhibit of his work brought people together for a visual and thrilling experience.
Nature also inspires modern artists, such as Mary Iverson , who draws inspiration from the natural beauty around her. Her paintings offer a contemporary spin on traditional landscape art, and she uses monuments, national parks, and societal issues (like climate change) as inspiration. She began addressing climate change in her art because she wanted to combine her environmental activism and painting interests.
Another modern artist, Miranda Lloyd , creates contemporary abstract nature art, such as trees, birds, and other naturalistic nature scenes. She uses inspiration from her own backyard and paints many scenes that are inspired by the sea. Miranda is an excellent example of how you can be inspired by nature within and outside of your home.
Additionally, items from nature can be used to create new forms of art. Renowned artist Daniel Popper creates larger-than-life sculptures, and many of them are designed with forms of nature. He currently has an outdoor exhibit at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, called “Human+Nature.” This exhibit connects people and trees through sculptures and other forms of art. As stated on the Morton Arboretum’s website, “People rely on trees for clean air to breathe, shade to cool, and beauty that can bring joy and relaxation, among many other benefits. In turn, trees need people to care for them to thrive and share their benefits, especially in a changing climate.” Individuals can begin to reimagine their relationships with trees as they explore these large-scale artworks. Below are a few pictures from his exhibit!
In our next article about nature and art, we will take a deeper dive into how art can create different forms of purpose for various individuals and discuss places all over the United States that have spaces for art and nature!
Thomson, L. J., Morse, N., Elsden, E., & Chatterjee, H. J. (2020). Art, nature and mental health: assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a ‘creative green prescription’museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking, and collections. Perspectives in public health, 140(5), 277-285.
Kang, S., Kim, H., Baek, K., (2021). Effects of nature-based group art therapy programs on stress, self-esteem and changes in electroencephalogram (EEG) in non-disabled siblings of children with disabilities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18
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Nature: The Art of God
There is something wonderful in the beauty of the natural world. Nature’s brilliant glories enchant people and reawaken a special bond that has been established long ago by the creator. I feel a profound connection to nature, which I believe reflects God’s presence in all its majesty and energy. Nature stirs my mind with its mystery and makes me reflect on the power that created it all. It opens me up to the wonders of the world, constantly enlivening and haunting me with its secrets. When I close my eyes and allow myself to soar across the landscape of my mind, my place of happiness has always been high up on the branch of a tree, away from the business of life and the noise of the city. The pale moon illuminates the black sky and invites the shadows of the trees to engage in a solemn dance. Wisps of snow drift through the air freely. Millions of twinkling stars gaze down upon me. In moments like this, I feel as though I’m a tiny figure beholding an unknown power that lives deep behind the night sky. Even when I’m all alone, I feel like someone outside of my world is watching me. The beauty of what is around me transcends my spirit and gives me a hint of this strange being’s identity. For some reason it is always this image of being alone, being in the immensity of nature, that comes to me as my reserved space for meditation and happiness. Rick Bass, the author of A Texas Childhood, describes how nature brings people happiness. He writes, “It was the woods and the earth – the slope of the hill, the laws of gravity … which seeks joy so earnestly, so relentlessly” (12). Bass realizes that he is not the one causing the joy experienced by himself and his daughter Lowry, but something in his natural surroundings. Nature brings us delight and peacefulness when we reanimate the bond that we share with it. I believe that when God made the earth, he created it to be “good”. This goodness is the source that nourishes us with joy when we relive the connection between ourselves and the natural world. Our struggles and harsh realities are transcended when we open up ourselves to the small and large spectacles of our universe. The physical components that make up nature, every little fiber in a leaf or the fur on an animal, are symbolic to me. It’s truly amazing how these small and seemingly insignificant things can make up such breathtaking creations. I envision each element of creation as a piece of a puzzle. Each piece is magnificent in its own beauty and clicks together with everything else in order to transform into a richly painted canvas. I interpret this completed canvas as a metaphor for the relationship between humans and the natural world. We are meant to interact and collectively join together with nature, and when we immerse ourselves in God’s creation, a delightful masterpiece is born. When we are connected to nature, we are happy and work in harmony with the natural world to create something beautiful. As an artist, I appreciate creation as a form of art where God takes on the role of the artist, creating the plants, animals, and people of the world. God’s wonders are reflected through the landscapes and seascapes of the planet, the mountains rising to the distance, and the fish abiding in the deep ocean. When I look at flowers or behold an endless forest, I can’t help but feel a hidden abiding presence. Everything on earth is part of God’s masterpiece, and it is through his works that I get a glimpse his greatness. God is my favorite artist, and his work called “nature” is what helps me experience him. Nature is a wonderful gift, and we participate in a deep and eternal connection to it. When we live out that connection in everyday life, happiness can be found. I believe that God is revealed through the beauty of nature and present in it. As part of this creation, we as people have a duty to re-establish our bond with the wilderness. Nature should take an important role in our lives as it connects us with the one who created all of life, God. Works Cited Bass, Rick. “A Texas Childhood.” The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. Philip Zaleski, ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
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Favorite Quote: "I learned to give love and get love unconditionally. You just have to accept people for what they are, and I learned the greatest gift of all. The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever."
Favorite Quote: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart." -Helen Keller
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The Close Connection Between Art And Nature
By Team Mojarto
An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his language.
There seems to be a close relationship between nature and art. Nature has become a central theme in many famous artists’ artworks. Nature has proven to be one of the most treasured muses known to man. It provides endless inspiration to artists, where they can bring life to nature in their paintings. Many famous artists like Van Gogh and Monet celebrated nature in their artworks. Nature in art is glorified for its sublime and picturesque manifestation on canvas. It is cherished for its intricacy and beauty.
Some philosophers including Aristotle lauded that art can mimic nature. It embodies as a true reflection of the artist’s inner soul. Aristotle even once wrote that “Art not only imitates nature but also completes its deficiencies”. This can be interpreted as art not only recreating the natural world but also creating new ways in which to see it in another light. In other words, art is the missing voice of what nature lacks to speak. Here’s a look at some beautiful artwork that can mesmerize one’s soul and convey a sense of deeper thoughts and perspectives.
The idea offered by nature is endless. It is seen as a way to appreciate nature and bring out the complex human connection to nature. From time immemorial artists and poets have connected nature to human characteristics and mood. Earlier artists used art as a medium to bring out the spirituality in nature. They portrayed every landscape, flower, and insect with a touch of divinity, which was largely attained by the use o light and shade. Art was also a way to explore the world of nature. It brought out the beauty and importance of nature. Many artists portray nature as realistically as possible, which led to the emergence of many movements surrounding art.
Photorealism to abstraction, nature is depicted in every art style. Art movements like Tonalism, naturalism, Plein air, Danube school, and Ecological art were based solely on nature and the natural world.
Landscape Paintings depict natural scenery in art, which is why it is also referred to as nature paintings. Artists have been enamoured by the beauty of nature and have tried to capture nature in all her glory through beautiful landscape paintings. Traditionally, landscape art depicts the surface of the Earth, but there are other sorts of landscapes that are also depicted extensively in art, such as moonscapes, skyscapes, seascapes among others.
Exploring seascape paintings in contemporary art, k. g. subramanyan: a maestro of indian art, capturing the divine: exploring temples in indian paintings, exploring the joy of friendship through artworks.
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Opinion Art and Nature
Art can only ever express the distance between humans and the natural world
Fan Kuan, Travellers among Mountains and Streams c.1000, ink on silk hanging scroll, 206.3 x 103.3 cm
The Collection of National Palace Museum, Taipei
‘Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.’ – Pablo Picasso, 1923
Picasso was right. No matter how naturalistic a work of art, it is always more about art than nature. Works of art show our sense of being apart from the natural world, our stubborn sense of difference from other animals and the the universe in which we find ourselves.
Landscape paintings made in China around the 900s are among the first great poetic statements of this sense of apartness. Fan Kuan’s hanging- scroll painting Travellers among Mountains and Streams , the most famous of this school, shows the ‘unendurable contrast’, as the poet and translator Arthur Waley put it, between the human and natural worlds. Vast cliffs swamp the human world, tiny figures lost in the ink-drawn landscape.
It was an idea taken up in European art many centuries later – a sense that nature was beyond human control. I love James Ward’s great, glowering painting Gordale Scar 1812–14 , in Tate’s collection, but it does nothing to rid you of your deep sense of fear when actually approaching the towering cliffs in the Yorkshire Dales, or to calm your racing heart when scrambling up the dangerous limestone cleft, an ascent both terrifying and impossible to resist. Only at the top, lying exhausted out on the quiet, windswept plateau, is it possible to think of Ward’s painting once again.
Art is constantly driven by the attempt to bridge the apartness of humans and the world. It always fails. In the 20th century, this pursuit became a matter of finding an equivalent not for the appearance, but for the invisible forces of nature. How might you show processes of growth, decay or gravity in art? These are just as much ‘nature’ as a tree in the field. ‘Art imitates nature in her manner of operation’, in the words of the art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy in his 1934 book The Transformation of Nature in Art . This tradition of thought was brilliantly summarised by Clement Greenberg in his essay from 1961 ‘On the Role of Nature in Modern Painting’. He describes how impressionist artists tried to resolve all conflict between art and nature by bringing painting to the verge of abstraction, but it was for the cubists to realise what this meant: ‘When Braque and Picasso stopped trying to imitate the normal appearance of a wineglass and tried instead to approximate, by analogy, the way nature opposed verticals in general to horizontals in general – at this point art caught up with a new conception and feeling of reality that was already emerging in general sensibility as well as in science’. Perhaps this was when Picasso first conceived his ‘not nature’ definition of art.
Ward’s Gordale Scar now seems prophetic of how this feeling of reality has become, in our own times, so dark and dangerous. John Ruskin was among the first to realise that man had ‘desacrilised’ nature, as he put it, viewing it as a source of raw materials to be exploited, emptying it of its mystery. It is no longer simply a feeling of apartness, but also a sense that we own and control nature. But art shows us that we do not. We have laboratories where we recreate the birth of stars. Art is a record of our changing encounter with nature, and reveals the truth that our sense of separation is mere illusion — we are a tiny part of a greater whole. Art ‘cannot stand in competition with nature’, Hegel once wrote, ‘and if it tries it looks like a worm trying to crawl after an elephant’.
John-Paul Stonard is a writer and art historian. He is currently writing a book telling the story of art, from Palaeolithic to the present day, for Bloomsbury.
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Issue 43: summer 2018.
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