art becomes art,

nature becomes nature,

nature becomes art,

but how may art become nature?

As a contemporary artist who is deeply inspired by nature (nature becomes art), I am often concerned that despite nature’s ability to inspire love and respect for itself through its utter marvel and brilliance (nature becomes nature), and that of art obviously but furtively promoting and instigating further artistic invention (art becomes art); how, if ever, does art inspire in its participation a deep and lasting empathy and behavioural respect for the natural world? Do our culturally specific intrinsic actions as human beings ever create lasting catalytic, symbiotically and magically charged responses that adequately and reciprocally embody the true spirit and power of the natural world? Indeed are we capable of such altruistic all-encompassing expression or are we merely deluding ourselves to the potency of our human endeavours?

 cliffs of moher, co clare (pward 1991)

On my daughter’s first birthday I was fortunate enough to be on the west coast of Ireland visiting the dark and magnificent Cliffs of Moher, some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and a major tourist attraction for such an economically depressed area of the country. As we climbed the smooth stone steps amid the coach-carried pilgrims to the summit of the path the faint remnants of whistle music could be heard in the air. Standing at the top was an unassuming single player weaving a traditional melody into the salty sea winds of that place, casting such plaintiff sound to be challenged and caught by nature’s wild westerly gusts.

On reflection, twenty years later, this simple and enchanted moment, despite its somewhat kitsch contemporary setting, shouts to me an instance of how our art, our cultural responses to nature, may be simply offered back into the realm from where they came and allowed the freedom to take their own form. Not just one manipulated by our oft-meddling opposable digits but by an open and trustful interaction with the wider world of which we are an incidental part. Such moments propose an element largely missing from contemporary art but one that maybe offers us an opportunity to re-establish an animate, reciprocal and dignified relationship with the natural world on which we ultimately depend.

  pine bark bundle 3, kyleaglannawood co galway (pward 2011)

Some may say that as part of the all-encompassing totality, that is nature, how can what we do be anything other than nature itself? So, what role or function does, or will, art play within this existential expression of our being? To look back over our history, even to the most primitive of times, it has always been present in some form or another, and despite a multitude of critical positions stating otherwise it can never truly be separated from the universal society or ecology. Maybe art, in its complex diversity of forms, is quite simply an expression of our nature – one human response to this great mystery; one means by which we may seek to understand our place within it all; one way we may explore and share our experience of becoming with others; and one way we may celebrate, affirm and give thanks for our tentative place within it all.



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