University of Tasmania

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Problems with Nature - Sculptural Installation and the Culture/Nature Paradox.

posted on 2023-05-27, 22:13 authored by Bonde, Ian
This research project investigates visual metaphors for aspects of the nature/ culture paradox. Modern human beings formalise nature, natural elements and natural processes by quantifying and qualifying the environment to better define themselves. A desire to comprehend and gain control over nature is expressed through the imposition of artificial systems and mathematical descriptions. However, the forces of entropy and decay are ever present. Despite attempts to suppress these physical processes, humans are necessarily bound to a common material existence. In response, attainment of a spiritual dimension is sought through cultural expression. The project explores how the nature/ culture paradox is manifested in the phenomenon of landscape design, especially formal gardens of 18th century Europe, including features such as Platonic forms, labyrinths, mazes and meanders. Particular attention is given to the work of Batty Langley. The investigation is located within an international field of artists concerned with the culture/ nature question. The enquiry considers artists who create visual representations of symbolic pathways, such as Jorgen Thordrup and Marianne Ewaldt. Land and environment art is examined with regard to concepts of order, disorder, entropy and stasis, emphasizing those artists such as Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt and Jurg Altherr, who contrast artificial constructions with natural settings. It also considers the appropriation of nature in a search for the sublime through the sculptural installations of Anja Gallaccio. Examination of formal garden features has informed new hybrid motifs which are developed in the work for this project. The application of these designs to the sculptural and installation mediums has involved innovative usage of materials and techniques. The development of a personal symbology to present metaphors for order and chaos/ entropy and stasis, has produced new juxtapositions of man made forms and natural elements. Exploration of the viewer's engagement with space and physical ambience, including smells, has also been an important element of the work. In addition, new methods have been developed to visualise concepts through computer generated virtual drawings and, to present the preparation and exhibition of sculptural installations through digital photography. Finally, the project considers the spiritual dimension within human culture, employing a number of universal symbols in new ways to create works, which echo both eastern and western sensibilities, for example, metaphorical methods for attainment and links between Buddhist and alchemical symbolism.


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