Alexander von Humboldt, cartographer, adventurer, naturalist, renaissance man is the inspiration for the title of this collection. This collection is a sort of ‘artist’s choice’ of various works of nature photography. It reflects a falling in love process with nature, and the deep soulful joy that comes from the discovery of its complexity. Thus, what speaks to the soul, escapes our measurements. The connection one develops with nature cannot be measured in notions of ‘natural capital’.
A rural celebration of nature and nurture. The Beltra Show gathers together those who tend fruit and vegetables, who bake perfect apple tarts, and who arrange flowers in their colourful glory. It is for dog-lovers, animal-lovers and quirky stall holders. However, it is fiercely competitive – prizes and reputations at stake for the best bale of hay, or sod of turf. This piece documents Beltra 2017 in over-saturated style befitting of this rural drama.
An ongoing theme of my work concerns the tension between first and second nature, that is the natural and built environment. This tension is within – I am the product of an urban environment. The infrastructure of this environment is fascinating, textural and dynamic, much as it is destructive, ugly and wasteful. This project is a meditation on the fascinating.
Sometimes a project takes on a documentary tone, and while I was travelling in the UK for a conference, I got to explore the Calder Valley in Yorkshire, Ted Hughes country. This project is not particularly making a deliberate artistic statement, only to reflect my interests in exploring the built environment, infrastructure and water.
As part of an ongoing enquiry, this project interrogates the concept of solastalgia. Solastalgia is a neologism describing the sadness, grief or loss felt in relation to ecosystem distress. This work attempts to visually communicate the feeling of solastalgia using photography. For more on the concept of solastalgia, see this article.
In this work, I wish to evoke the affective dimension of solastalgia through working with the idea of dead beauty. These images are all in a nature and landscape photography style. Yet there is a death or stillness implied in them. Nature is dormant, dead here, and while we can read these images in a way that suggests new life is yet to come, I wish to show the scenes in dormant, frozen ways.
Taken from a line in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, this project is a homage to water. Eliot’s masterpiece has long inspired me since I was a young teenager. A frenetic world made silent, yet, when stillness approaches, ‘there the dance is’. Much as water is tumultuous, vigorous and dynamic, its capacity for profound stillness is at once expansive and comforting.
A synchronicity with ideas of ‘the still point’ later emerged with a convergence of this poem and my studies in music. I met the composer Micheál O’Súilleabháin a number of times in the 90s and got to know his work. His 1992 album, Gaiseadh, contained a piece titled At the Still Point of the Turning World. O’Súilleabháin also referenced Eliot in this painfully beautiful work. Written for piano, tanpura and surpeti, the piece evokes a gentle tumult, before sonically representing the idea of stillness in a most sublime way.
I cannot begin to do justice to Eliot or O’Súilleabháin, but I can offer a gentle interpretation of the still point.