Art Renewing Nature: while galleries are closed, our senses remain open to the art around us

I remember walking to school when I was a teenager one wintry snowy morning. It was freezing, I was wearing soft black gloves, and I distinctly remember seeing something small and delicate catching my eye as it landed from the white sky onto my thumb. A perfectly shaped snowflake. There it was, like a tiny frozen star on my hand. I was so in awe of the snowflake I stopped walking, and with my one free hand tried to take a photo before it melted away. Although it vanished before I could capture it with my BlackBerry phone camera (quality wouldn’t have been as good as my memory anyway), I still remember it years later, and I still haven’t seen one as beautiful since. 

Nature has a fantastic ability to capture our imagination in many ways, through photography, literature, sculpture, spoken word and music. Nature has been the source of inspiration for many artists throughout history, and I feel that now more than ever, during one of the longest and toughest winters we’re all facing, we see more of nature’s beauty closer to home. Due to COVID slowing down many aspects of our lives, we can really spend more time appreciating nature, and pay closer attention to what we would potentially miss during our busy lives pre-pandemic. 

We are all going on more walks this winter as a means of exercise. Galleries and art spaces are shut due to restrictions, and so seeing works of art indoors is out of the question for now – but art and nature are still around us as we go on our walks.

I’ve taken photos of beautiful icy patterns (almost slipping a few times), intricate enough to recreate as wallpaper. With each wintry walk I take, I am seeing new versions of the same route as the seasons change. 

Some of my favourite artists use nature in their work. Inspired by the changing seasons and the strength of natural materials, here are four artists you should check out for some nature inspired artwork.

Andy Goldsworthy 

Born in 1956, Goldsworthy is a sculptor, photographer and environmentalist. His work captures nature in a truly unique way by patiently arranging natural objects like leaves and ice into stunning pieces of sculpture, photographing them by composing the pieces ‘to the very edge of collapse’, and returning back to nature over time. Some of his sculptures can be seen at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Watch his documentary ‘Rivers and Tides’ here.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was an American artist. Named ‘Mother of American Modernism’, O’Keeffe is known for her paintings of flowers and landscapes. Each painting speaks volumes through her use of vibrant colours and eye-catching shapes. In O’Keeffe’s words, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

She recently exhibited at the Tate Modern in London.

Walter Mason

Walter Mason is a German artist using nature to create vibrant and engaging sculptures. Crafting geometric works from leaves and other natural objects, Mason captures colour and shape; through the use of photography, he makes the temporary permanent. Each piece he makes, he describes as an ‘experiment’ which either works or doesn’t, much like the unpredictability of nature. 

His marble structure is available to watch here.

Victoria Crowe 

Born in 1945, Crowe is an artist I have admired since studying my Art Highers at School. Her work is captivating, colourful and full of emotions. She is a Scottish artist known for her portraits and landscapes.

Each artist listed in this article has used nature as a source of inspiration in their work – renewing objects we would see on our walks and turning them into pieces of art.

Rosalind Main, Visual Artwork Editor