Ideas are a bit like oxygen. The right amount allows us functionality; too much and we get all high. Such is the feeling you get after a read of Art Nature Dialogues, wherein John K. Grande interviews a series of environmental artists. There’s a spectacular array of materials and viewpoints, from the manure sculptures of Jerilea Zempel to the interventions of Betty Beaumont. What emerges is not only a concise study of environmental artists and their motivations, but an opportunity to examine the way artists describe their work.
“The face of working as a pair, in situ and outside brings a fundamental social dimension to our work, firstly about ‘minimal ethnic unity,’ . . . Being two, we develop the minimal conditions of collaboration and codependance, of synergy, of respect of the sharing, of conflict and contract . .”
To be blunt: What? Not every artist is quite so over-articulate, but the language of the interviews ranges from the simple and practical to the etheral and other-worldly. I’d love to be able to draw a parallel here between the quality of an artist’s work and the words they use to describe it, but that parallel would be nothing but gaudy bauble-words.
That same lung-opening high you might get from The Stream Path is present in Spin Offs by Patrick Dougherty, or Mario Reis’ river paintings. It’s what makes the artists particularly relevant and exciting (despite, not because of, their habit of comparing themselves to Andy Goldsworthy). These artists have struck a chord, gone beyond the Land Art movement of the 70s (which, they will tell you, was limitied in its true connection to place), and articulated relationships, feelings and memes that speak to where we are now(-ish).
It’s all summed up very well in a quote from Hamish Fulton, an artist of long walks:
Art is essential in a healthy society. As they say, art is like oxygen. Whether we say art is profound, or worth investing in, sexy, or a rip-off and and rubbish, it doesn’t matter, because all those crazy and insulting and wonderful qualities all go to make up what we call contemporary art.