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What is the relationship between art and nature?

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Art and nature have always been linked to human concepts. It can take many visual forms, from photorealism to abstraction depending on what the artists wants to portray.

Today, things have changed and now more effort is require more than ever to the preservation of nature, as we are faced with the serious problem of its permanent demise. It is heartening to see artists from different disciplines react and engage with today's news about threats of mass extinction or climate change or the depletion of natural resources. And make public exhibits on the subject in order to promote awareness.

Henry Matisse once 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.”

Despite the world being influenced by a technology-driven society, there are very few subjects that can inspire artists quite like nature does. From a autumn leaves spiralling to the ground or a mighty buzzard diving to the ground after a door-mouse, Mother Nature will continue to mesmerise us with visions of pure beauty to provide inspiration for some of the most renowned works of art the world has ever seen.

Sharing opinions from other artists

Stephen Carpenter; This question basically elicits an opinion. It is not the kind of question that one could build an argument with citations on. That said, my opinion follows. If nature is an art, then the question becomes theological. Here’s a reason or two why. As artists generally understand the art process, making an image is manipulating materials to express an idea or feeling. A “person” in the guise of an artist is central to the process. The art ideas come from experiences with our senses. We receive sensory information from our receptors- eyes, ears, skin, motion, etc. The brain interprets those sensations on the basis of what has already been processed. Without a sensate “artist person”, it is not possible to defend something as art that has not been manipulated.

“Why do we respond emotionally and aesthetically to nature?”, would be a fair question to ask. Sensorially, we are moved by those times when the sense input overwhelms us as far as I can figure. Nature can impact us in the same ways that experiencing art does. But note- we are at the centre of the experience. We are the receivers and it is our experience that we label. What is personal rarely is a universal and we get into trouble when we make that assumption.

To summarise: the making of art requires a person with experience to make it. If nature is art, then the discussion becomes one of theology or more precisely, religion. If one wishes to go to that discussion, much of what we as humans experience must be jettisoned because our notions of a “God as a person” is not universal.

By no means should you as a receiver of sensory information stop seeking out those aesthetic experiences that only occur in nature nor should you stop labelling those experiences in ways that allow you a better or deeper understanding. But, understand that others may see and feel the same experience and label it something very different.

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