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The Art of Nature

Getting close up: left: Odora leaf; right: St. Lawrence River
Getting close up: left: Odora leaf; right: St. Lawrence River

Is nature art? I’d like to think so. That might seem odd, coming from an abstract artist, but bear with me. While I don’t depict the physical world directly in my work, I respect and admire those who do. The desire to document the world around us and how it makes us feel is fundamentally human. We will always need this type of work; nature teaches us about art and art teaches us about nature.

Nature is the first art we ever encounter

Long before we ever set foot in a gallery or museum, we merely went outside. We learn to appreciate beauty in our surroundings before we seek the beauty formed by human artistry. That’s why the art that portrays our environment or the creatures that live in it is so poignant. Some of our fondest memories are tied to enjoying the great outdoors, whether we do so alone or with others. When I venture out, I look for fascinating little details, some of which are listed below. As my photos above suggest, I feel the magic of nature the most when I get up close to it.

Our earth is more abstract than you might think

When I examine the natural world, I find that abstract details make up the realistic surface. Everything can be broken down into shapes, be they geometric or organic. Get close enough to a flower and it simply becomes a delightful arrangement of curving, overlapping fields of colour and pleasing lines. When seen from space, the planet itself is a roiling ball of blue, green, brown and white.

All of the elements and principles of art are embedded in nature. Though they can be rendered without referencing any part of the earth, you could easily say that they are derived from it. I see my favourites (texture, line, colour, pattern, contrast) and others everywhere I look:

  • The subtle, balanced patterns of an Odora leaf

  • The ever-changing rhythm of the rippling St. Lawrence River

  • The craquelure texture of poplar bark

  • The contrast of rust-coloured veins running through a granite outcrop

  • The graceful harmony of rain drops on a tulip

  • The iridescent purple and green of a starling’s wings

The sky is a global gallery that rivals the finest museums in the world. It hosts larger-than-life abstracts of every shape and colour. By day, there are a myriad of clouds, sunrises and sunsets and at night, the stars are on display. Even that grey, overcast sky is a work of art — just think of it as a minimalist piece!

What part of nature leaves you in awe?

Our nature ‘museum’ has manifold collections housed in many wings. Your favourite piece could be as close as your own backyard or half a world away. Bramptonians live in a beautiful city, province and country, with so much to explore. There are countless destinations around the globe that boast outstanding natural beauty.

For me, it was the Animal Flower Cave in Barbados, which I was blessed to visit in 2019. The cave is a habitat for flowerlike creatures that close up as soon as they’re disturbed. The cave was one of several that were carved out of the limestone cliffs by the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean. I observed the rugged coastline and listened as the waves crashed far below, swirling through pools and around rocks. I hadn’t even gone into the cave itself and it was already an exhilarating experience!

The cave I visited is underground and according to the guide, was once only accessible by sea. Once you make your way down, you are rewarded with a unique view of the ocean stretching out towards the horizon. The second chamber was where I had my moment of wonder. It’s also where I took one of my most treasured photographs:

Animal Flower Cave, Barbados
Animal Flower Cave, Barbados

It’s the contrast that draws me in. The inky darkness of the cave against the blue of the sky and the ocean. The relative calm of the pool makes you forget that the waters originated from such a wild source. The way the light caught the ripples in the water continues to enrapture me years later. My family is from Barbados, so I have been there many times, but this was the visit that impacted me the most. I know it will stay with me forever and the photos I took will keep the memories alive.

That’s what’s so powerful about art! It can capture those places and moments that are just too precious to go unrecorded. Nature is art, but it can’t preserve itself; the landscape changes and memories fade. That is why we still need to create art because it serves as a time capsule, bottling up what we’ve seen and felt so others can experience it.

Be sure to check out the latest show in the Beaux Arts’ line up, titled In Awe of Nature, running from now until October 16, 2021. It comprises a mix of paintings, sculpture, photography, drawing and digital painting. They depict landscapes, plants, flowers, animals (and even some people mixed in). There’s something for everyone!


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