Nature’s Voice Explained.
Nature’s Voice: An investigation of a dynamical system – the weather – through drawing.
Nature’s Voice is a growing artwork intended to span decades, with the aim of producing one A2 ink drawing a week. Walking and the drawn line were used as a catalyst for the development of this alternative research project, carried out within the genre of landscape art. These techniques are rooted in the working methodology of the 19th century Romantic landscape artist. The intention is to record the interaction between humans and the planet, with weekly visual snapshots as information that can be stored for a future date. From an artistic perspective, they are exploring the use of a dynamical system – the weather – to drive a pendulum, to create an original drawn topography. The resulting creation is a hybrid work that spans disciplines: art, as a drawing is produced; physics, as a pendulum is used; meteorology, as the weather provides the driving force; and ecology, as the ultimate goal is to record the phenomena of Global Warming.
The work begins with ‘en plein air’ sketches, following the traditional idea of drawing from the natural world to develop the technique of ‘seeing’ which, in turn, promotes a deeper knowledge of the subject. Drawing is used as the medium for analysis to explore “The concept of landscape as an active verb and an ongoing process, as the making and remaking of land and human subject….” (Casid, 2008, p179). In this instance, the drawings particularly record the effect of our society’s predilection for extreme consumption and the resulting contamination of the planet. Each is made over seven days and is achieved by staging a creative act; the construction of a simple pendulum: a string with a pen attached, tied to the branch of an apple tree above a piece of paper held to the ground. The weather provides the force required to move the pendulum, which proceeds to explore and leave traces on the surface area of the paper, made accessible by the string. The pen investigates and records time and space, creating a visual narrative of the week. This also facilitates the weather’s ability to produce abstract expressionistic marks by allowing the elements and the tree, to make marks that can be recorded on paper. The exploration of the language of Abstract Expressionism and the investigation of notions of landscape in relation to natural forces are, therefore, in direct response to a particular landscape at a particular time. The drawings have a direct indexical link to the tree and the weather, thereby offering Nature a chance of authorship, by enabling the visible representation of her ‘voice’. Stacey Levy suggests that “This is art’s real power – to give new ways of telling the story of nature” (2008, p75).
The resulting topographical drawings consist of intricate layers of black chaotic marks and pools of ink. Also collected are the serendipitous marks left by falling leaves, passing animals, birds and insects. Each mark produced articulates the ephemeral workings of natural forces in a moment of time, making them perceptible, bringing hidden Nature into the realm of the world of art. The drawings are also recording seemingly random patterns that might gradually change over time, creating a potential new strand of research designed to watch, look at and record the weather. The intention is to catch small incremental changes that might otherwise be overlooked, within the layers of marks produced. In the future these drawings will become a source of information, stored within the seemingly random patterns. Chaos theory suggests that systems such as the weather, which produces these drawings, might not be as chaotic as first thought; therefore recognisable patterns might emerge from this record and become decipherable. This growing body of work will continue to record the weather, as the environment changes and the planet moves towards the predicted state of Global Warming.
Casid, Jill H. (2008) ‘Landscape Trouble’, in DeLue & Elkins (ed.) Landscape Theory. Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 179 – 187.
Levy, S. (2008) ‘You Are Here: Locating ourselves in nature’, in Montag. D. (ed.) (2008) Artful ecologies: art, nature & environment conference 2006. RANE Research in Art, Nature & Environment; Art, Nature & Environment Conference, University College Falmouth. July 2006. Cornwall : RANE Research Cluster, pp. 69 – 81. Quote is on page 75.