MIXING NATURE INTO PAINT: Working on a Larger Scale and Reflection

Continuing my Experimentation creating a connection between art and nature in an urban and technological Society. I have experimented with mixing natural elements into paint and using the mixtures to create landscape paintings to portray a connection to nature and attempt to somewhat reconnect the viewer with the natural world. My thoughts behind this experimentation were that after viewing flat generic landscape paintings of the Brecon Area in Local Galleries, I thought they were nice depictions for someone to hang on their wall and have memories of the place, but I didn’t really think they connected with the place or connected the viewer with the natural world. I decided to experiment with producing landscape paintings incorporating natural matter (from the place depicted) into the paint to connect the piece with place and nature more deeply.

I started experimenting with mixing soil and twigs into paint and applying them to the surface, incorporating colours inspired by my original starting point piece by John Piper. Even though this is only an inital experiment, I don’t think it is very successful, there are too many areas on the surface of the piece that do not include any natural elements and are just painted. I don’t think that this piece particularly emits a deeper connection with nature or place and so I decided to continue experimenting incorporating more nature into the work and attempting to cover the whole surface in this mixed up nature embedded paints.

I do think that these paintings are more connected to nature than if they were just flat paintings and I think they would encourage viewers to think about the natural world and therefore experience a slight reconnection with nature. However, I’m not sure how strong this would be as the natural objects are mixed into synthetic paints that are plasticy and bright. I do think the textural element of the works is particularly interesting but these experiments are quite small, I wonder how the impact would be if the painting was on a large scale and the natural elements were even more prominent on the surface. Would they appear hidden under paint or would they give a new dimension to the painting and a deeper connection with place and nature? I experimented on a larger scale in an attempt to find out.

Working on a Larger Scale

I am pleased with how this piece looks visually and texturally, I think viewers would enjoy looking at it. However that is all I’m pleased with, After creating this larger image I do not think the technique of mixing natural elements into paint is particularly successful in creating a connection between art and nature other than the fact that the materials are put together on the same for surface. I don’t think that this piece would reconnect people with the natural world as the natural elements are hidden under synthetic plasticy acrylic paint. I didn’t really think about the unnatural qualities of acrylic paint but I think it is evident in this piece that there is nothing natural about it apart from the materials that are embedded within the paint. The colour choice is poor as well. I wanted to incorporate colours from the original piece I looked at by John Piper and colours that I had experienced being in the Brecon Beacons but I feel the whole thing is too bright and doesn’t look natural at all. It doesn’t capture the natural feel I want it to and I think this is mainly down to the man made paint use. I think I need to move on from this and progress and physically make my own paints/pigments from natural materials. That way it would be all natural. I also wouldn’t be able to control the colours that occur as they will also come from nature. Displaying the jars of hand-made nature paints with the piece could be interesting, the paints also being artworks themselves. I have learnt a lot from producing this piece and need to create a deeper connection to nature and not combine that with synthetic material because it defeats the object. Lastly, I think the image is too tight, it isn’t expressive or gestural enough.

I am thinking now about making my own paints from nature and using tools made from natural objects to apply the paints. I could display the paints and the tools with the work. Hopefully using the tools will make the work more gestural and less illustrative and also a deeper connection to nature will be evident because nature will have made the mark in the form of applying the paint and in the paint itself.


How Does the Addition of Natural Elements affect the significance of Anselm Kiefer’s Vitrine Painting: Fitzcarraldo (2010)? – 500 word Essay


Anselm Kiefer is known for his innovative use of varied and often unconventional materials within painting “a reinvention of traditional forms” (Simon Schama, 1996, p.124). Continuing themes within the works include war, nature and history. More recently, works have incorporated thorn bushes and branches encased in vitrines in the foreground of forestry paintings, as seen here in the work entitled “Fitzcarraldo” (2010). Within constellation, I have learnt about how the use of found/pre-made objects that have connotations of their own, can add meaning to contemporary artwork.. I intend to discuss how the addition of natural materials to Kiefer’s work affects the significance of the piece in question.

The German Forest has been a recurring theme in his practice throughout his artistic career. Kiefer was born in 1945 and grew up in the devastation of war, “a child of the rubble” (Michael Prodger, 2014). Kiefer’s “parents hid with him in the forest during day-time air raids” and so for him the “tall bare, bewilderingly numerous tree trunks” (Christian Weikop, 2014) emit connotations of war and fear. The element of fear is heightened by the fact that there seems to be no way out . “There is no sense of any clearing through the forest, the viewer is entrapped by trunks” (Christian Weikop, 2014). You could claim that the addition of foliage in relief, adds significance to the feeling of entrapment, as if the natural elements almost create a second forest in themselves. However, this could also take away from it as the organic matter is separate from the trees and emits the impression of being on the forests edge looking in.

The addition of thorn bushes and branches with no greenery on them suggests a wintery feel and adds significance to the piece because of the association winter and snow has with the holocaust, “where the jews were forced to march miles across cold, snowy landscapes barefoot to their death”. The thorns add a sense of danger and negativity to the work. Furthermore, thorn bushes have christian connotations, linking the piece to the religious predjudice surrounding wartime. The fact that the natural elements have been removed from their environment and allowed to die makes the feeling of loss of life more prominent.

The title “Fitzcarraldo” evokes the determination of Carlos Fitzcarrold, a Peruvian Rubber Baron who transported a 30 tonne steamboat over mountainous terrain. This could be seen as echoing the determination of the heroic soldiers who fought in war. Organic Matter existing in the piece gives it a three dimensional impression. “By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, he invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture” (White Cube, 2014) It can be argued that the viewer experiences a greater connection with the forest as they can imagine reaching out and touching the branches. However, the natural objects could be detracting from the forestry.

After analysing the image, I have come to the conclusion that the addition of natural elements adds significance to the forest in war time and to the work as a whole. The German landscape was desolate from the effects of WWII and I feel that the addition of branches with no life on them adds significance to the tradgedies. Adding natural materials to “Fitzcarraldo” gives the viewer a more immersive and sensory experience of the work and echoes “the gritty materiality of historical truth” (Simon Schama, 1996, p.126).