Symbiosis: Art and Nature

Station Gallery and The Garden Room

Erum Aamir Edwin Aitken Laura Ellen Bacon Jan Bowman
Ella Clocksin Alex De Vol Charlotte Johnston Mandy Payne Richard Perry
Joseph Bull & the Oxford University Kilns Project Lucy Ingrams

Friday 21st August to Sunday 4th October


Artists have been enthused by nature for as long as there has been art, to quote Henri Matisse “An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.“

With our entrance into the Anthropocene and the ever-increasing debate around climate change, humanity’s relationship with nature is continually scrutinised. This exhibition recognises the independence of both the ‘natural’ and the ‘made’ through an understanding of the hidden roots that intertwine and connect us with the natural world.

Symbiosis defines a close and long-term biological interaction, and typically refers to a mutually beneficial relationship. In reference to the present discourse around nature and humanity, symbiosis can be used to question our negative and/or positive relationships with the natural world. Both our individual and collective response to nature is explored through and in art, and what we create, not just by the artist but also by the spectator.

The artworks within this exhibition show that a reciprocal union can be formed from the desire to work with, and create, beautiful objects or images that use, reflect, or are representative of the beauty that surrounds us.

“There is something so basic, so natural in the hand that the urge to utilise its power will always make itself felt. Moreover, the chief characteristic of handcrafts is that they maintain by their very nature a direct link to the human heart, so that the work always partakes of a human quality”
Yanagi Sõetsu

The sculptures of Richard Perry explore what form and material is able to achieve in spaces that are both real and imagined. He cuts interlocking forms, planes, surfaces and voids into inflexible materials such as marble, limestone and concrete. Perry has a strong interest in the environment and regularly spends time taking photographs of local landscapes, including the veteran oaks of Sherwood Forest. He is inspired by the asymmetry of landscape and the singularity of a place, what makes it unique. Alexander de Vol uses a mix of traditional casting methods and new technologies to document the natural behaviour and movement of the vessels he makes in 'green wood’. He also takes care to preserve the features he feels are aesthetically synonymous with the material's origin. He speaks of his work as “an ongoing investigation into material” ranging between natural and synthetic, with an intention of allowing an audience to consider materials in a new way. For Mandy Payne the important concerns within her paintings are materiality, surface textures and facture. She wants to work with materials that have a physical connection to the sites she depicts, namely concrete and spray paint (referencing the graffiti). It can be argued that ‘the built environment’ is in fact a form of nature. The natural environment where artist’s materials derive from, is in direct relation to the urbanisation of the natural environment.

Erum Aamir, originally a physicist, was always fascinated by how nature constructs something atom by atom or cell by cell, and in the patterns that regularly lay deep down in matter and living organisms, which create irregular forms and shapes. Her porcelain sculptures are inspired by micro and macro study of plant forms, using the great collection of microscopic slides available at the herbarium at the Manchester museum. Laura Ellen Bacon uses natural materials, en masse, developing a language of form that may feel strangely familiar to the natural world. It is her goal that her work might bring some intrigue into both natural and built environments, creating work that might serve to remind us that nature can still surprise us. Using similar materials, Jan Bowman’s work interprets colour, form and texture inherent in the natural world. Inspired by the intangible rhythms in nature; the play of light and shadow, sequences of growth, currents, tides and land formation with a combination of natural and man-made materials.

Being-in-landscape, in the physical context, epitomises the following artists; for Edwin Aitken, anatomy and the natural world are generated as a part of a more outwardly expressive and intuitive approach to drawing and painting. Plant and animal motifs coalesce and combine in paintings that are a non-literal representation of visual and emotional experiences of the landscape. Charlotte Johnston’s paintings are heavily influenced by the initial drawings she makes of changing forms and structures in nature. She works outside in parkland and gardens around her home in Newcastle and in the more tropical Réunion Island. Transitioning from art school in the Scottish Highlands to the dynamic environment of London has been a catalyst to create work about new locations.

Working locally on Shotover Hill and Wytham Woods, Ella Clocksin translates what she sees/hears in ancient woodland ecologies into abstract paintings which speak of a core texture of experience best termed poetry/poetics. The ancient root word is poesis: literally coming-into-being. Ella’s notations are of momentary sensory cues, coming into being at the borders of bodily perception and language, and at the intersection of external and inner landscapes.
Joseph Bull is a young artist Potter who has established his first studio in Oxfordshire, having trained within various traditions of studio pottery. Joseph produces wood fired porcelain and stoneware vessels in Oxford University’s anagama kiln in Wytham Woods. He uses mineral composition of tree ash and iron oxide to create his glazes. He is aided in the firing by director of the project Dr Robin Wilson of Keble College. They use anthropological methods of participatory observation to investigate creativity in wood fired contemporary-hybrid Japanese inspired ceramics. Wytham was chosen for the project because it provides the robust research environment required for the construction of the kilns, the firing process and the production of traditional material objects.

Lucy Ingrams is a poet whose work is most often inspired by landscape and place. She spends as much time as she can outdoors, and has tried to write about the sea, about moorland, rivers, birdlife, cloud-life... Recently, whenever she has been able to, she has headed for a wood. An Oxford resident, she has frequently headed to Whytham woods, which have inspired the work in this show.
She writes both outdoors, at home and anywhere in between (bus, car, bike, etc.). She finds it takes time for a poem to make itself known. That there is no certainty that it will. If it does, her hope each time is to receive and grow it into something as rooted, airy, fiery and fluid as, say, a spreading ash tree. She fails repeatedly – but the process is never less than demandingly rich.
Lucy has won a number of competitions, including the Manchester Poetry Prize and the Magma poetry competition, and her work has been published in Britain, Ireland and the USA. A pamphlet, Light-fall, is available from Flarestack Poets.

All artworks can be seen below and purchased via the online shop