Art and Nature
Here are a few thoughts and observations about Art and Nature and how they relate to my painting. Many of these ideas will echo and add to some of the issues in my other blog posts.
For me, the landscape that I stand in when I paint should be honoured. I should try to actually say something about the conditions and the forms that I see in front of me. That means light, colour, texture, and form should represent a degree of truth. It doesn’t however mean that there should be a strict optical copying of the subject like a photograph, we’ve got cameras for that. I try to go beyond surface appearance of the subject but stop short of relying on the usual tropes of abstract painting to make “art” or “good painting”, meaning approved decorative and identifiable styles that are so favoured in the art market. That means that I try to show what I know about nature and my subject, what lies under the surface and sometimes what it might resemble in a conscious or even unconscious way.
I recently made a series of works based on Cape Banks which is a small headland near La Perouse just south of Sydney. The jagged cliffs and headlands of the Cape and surrounding sections of coast are Hawkesbury Sandstone which was laid down in a massive freshwater river basin during the Triassic period approximately 500 to 700 million years ago. It was subjected to shifts in the substrata that broke, bent and exposed it over the many years that it existed as sedimentary rock. In its very recent geological history it was subject to the most recent sea level rise around 15,000 years ago where the weathered spurs and hills of Sydney’s meandering river valleys were flooded. Harbours and bays replaced rivers and the coast was flooded and submerged by the melting icecaps and rising Pacific with its relentless beating waves. The headlands of the coast around Sydney are steep and high. They seem to be temporary to me, like they could fall into the ocean at any time. They also appear ancient and resilient like warriors withstanding powerful forces. In reality they are both it just depends on what time scale they are measured by.
The sea, wind, salt and sun weather the sandstone into beautiful and often fantastic shapes in the caves, ledges and hollows they leave. Some layers are more resistant to change than others because they contain different sand deposits. Here are some of the shapes that attracted me in the Cape Banks series.
They range from massive brutal jutting cliff faces to delicate lacy filigrees of stone. They can look anthropomorphic, beast like, geometric, and sexual, or even like folded drapes at times. They are far more interesting than anything that human beings can ever make. To me they strike a balance between order and chaos that is not only visually satisfying but endlessly fascinating. They are in flux, works in progress, and they always will be. They demand close inspection and careful artistic consideration if a painter is to do them justice. These are some of the reasons why I believe Art should always be at the service of Nature.