The relationship between art and nature is indeed very strong. Nature inspires art, and art helps people communicate with the surrounding nature. Any change that happens to the environment, even the smallest, can cause significant changes to this relationship.
Therefore, art–especially ecological art–is seen as the perfect tool to raise environmental awareness and combat climate change.
The Art World and Environmental Concerns
Nature is an endless source of inspiration for artists of all styles and schools. The intersection between art and nature has always existed throughout hundreds of thousands of years of human history. From primitive cave carvings dating back to the Paleolithic period to modern paintings or digital photographs, the influence of nature on the meaning of artworks is immense and undeniable.
However, nature is very vulnerable, and artists can feel it. The current climate crisis is, in fact, significantly changing the way artists think about art in general. Artists no longer limit themselves to mere aestheticism. They have become more sensitive and aware of all the trauma that Mother Nature is going through.
During the COP26 Climate Summit, besides the participation of relevant organizations and climate activists, the event also welcomed many artists of all art forms. The ART-CLIMATE-COP26 program organized by Art of Change 21 in Glasgow, has brought a very different perspective on the environment and climate change. With the presence of renowned artists such as John Gerrard and Lucy Orta, this program focuses on emphasizing the importance of engaging creative and imaginative artists as well as environmental activists.
Global warming, unpredictable natural disasters, air and ocean pollution, etc., topics revolving around climate change are continuously receiving the attention of many contemporary artists. When endless documents and energy-consuming meetings don’t seem to indicate much success, we need to see the issues through a new lens. Art, in this case, is the fresh lens we need.
Environmental Art and Ecological Art – Artists’ Language to Combat Climate Change
In the process of creating art, artists often develop a close connection with their objects as well as the surrounding elements. This connection between artists and nature was the main foundation of the concept of environmentalism, which led to the emergence of the term “environmental art.”
Basically, environmental art encompasses artistic practices of all types that help artists express their ecological and political motives and opinions. This art form primarily highlights the connection of artists with nature, as well as the combination of art with the scientific and philosophical ideas of environmental awareness.
In fact, environmental art has a longer history than you think. It wasn’t until the current environmental issues arose that environmental art appeared. The original ideas of environmental art emerged in the 1960s, after Western society had entered the Enlightenment period. Revolutions in science and discovery have made people somewhat forget the beauty and importance of nature, and this has prompted artists to speak up. Many typical environmental artists of that time, such as Jean-Max Albert, Piotr Kowalski, Nils Udo, and Robert Smithson, relied on different art forms to worship nature and inspire people to recognize its greatness.
Over time, simple environmental issues of the past quickly turned into serious global matters, and this required appropriate changes from all areas, including the arts. Artists understand that it’s not enough just to inspire people to care about nature. They knew they needed to add more weight to their mark, making it more visible. That’s when the term “ecological art” was born.
Ecological art is not a different definition, but actually a form of environmental art. This art form focuses on preserving and restoring Earth’s life forms, resources, and ecosystems, as well as addressing environmental issues in general.
The main principles of ecological art include ensuring the reciprocal relationship between art and nature, using natural materials in the creation of art, and utilizing environmental energy sources to create co-existence and sustainability.
Environmental art and ecological art are the perfect tools for artists to intervene in human behavior towards natural ecosystems. Not only that, these art forms also contribute to raising awareness of the impact individuals have on the environment. In an age where our every action determines the future of the planet, artists know exactly how important their role is in protecting the environment. And they spoke up.
Same Message, Different Forms
The first efforts of artists against climate change were made very early on. When it comes to the people who inspired the movement in the first place, it would be remiss not to mention Agnes Denes. Starting her career as an ecological artist in the 1970s, Agnes Denes is considered one of the pioneers of this art form.
Ecological artworks by Agnes Denes are mainly land artworks. They focus on the importance of restoring functional ecological systems, as well as the involvement of social activists and stakeholders. Of her works, Wheatfield – A Confrontation (1982) is the most representative. She planted 2 acres of golden wheat on a $4.5 billion landfill with support from the Public Art Fund, as an artistic initiative to end world hunger. More than 1,000 pounds of wheat were harvested from this project and sent to 28 cities around the world for distribution and replanting.
Besides land art, artists have also utilized many other art forms in order to express their opinion. Olafur Eliasson – a famous Danish-Icelandic artist – has experimented with different art combinations over the past 20 years and has received a lot of attention from professionals.
Olafur Eliasson’s artworks are very diverse, ranging from sculpture and painting to photography and light installation. His works bring viewers’ emotions closer to the presence of climate change, making environmental issues more intuitive and interesting for everyone. The Ice-Watch project, in collaboration with geologist Minik Rosing, is one of his most iconic works. This project was publicly displayed in Paris on the occasion of the COP 21 Climate Conference, creating a great opportunity for people to “feel” climate change with literally all their senses.
Here are just some of the most prominent environmental artists among the millions of artists out there who are wielding the most poetic weapons in the fight against climate change. Visual arts in general aren’t the only way for artists to express their love for the planet. Music, literature, etc., whatever art form that can help you express your concern about the environment, take advantage of it. As long as they all speak out against climate change, your message will not be any less meaningful.
You, not as an artist, can still help protect the most meaningful natural masterpiece– the Earth–by joining Tenere. Every effort matters and Tenere will help you plant trees around the world, contributing your brushstrokes to the global painting of reforestation.