REFLECTIONS ON NATURE | VARIOUS ARTISTS
OLD BARN GALLERY | 2 – 12 FEBRUARY 2023
The Reflections on Nature artist-in-residence project was launched on social media at the end of April 2020. At that time it was described as “designed to encourage artists to connect with nature over the coming months…… observing and creating in response to observations of colour, regrowth, seasonal change and interesting revelations….. for everyone from beginner artists ….. a guided journey of topics and inspirational thoughts….. a safe space …. to share …. sketches, photos, ideas, prose and observations.…… We may even grow this into an exhibition of observations or a publication eventually!”
Well it certainly grew. And now there is an exhibition of works selected from the huge number of observations by the substantial membership of the project - more than 600 people made thousands of contributions. The creative reflections gathered represent a unique and contemplative perspective on the environment during a time when our world changed.
Before this project was born, the environment had been dreadfully damaged by fire and drought. Then COVID-19 began. As a result, project participants felt a great need to explore the outdoors. They slowed down and looked for ways to create a sense of possibility, and for the promise of healing.
Photographers, writers, artists, journalers, ecologists and naturalists joined forces exploring the natural environment. Places they often knew well became sources of fresh wonder and delight, as they rediscovered and saw them afresh. Indeed this was a personal experience as I walked around the open areas of my own suburb.
Over a period of twelve months of guided, focussed observations in the Canberra region and beyond, the artists shared purpose around a common interest in nature resulted in a rich record of their experiences.
The exhibition was officially opened on World Wetlands Day (wetlands are being lost three times faster than forests) by Senator David Pocock who described the artworks as incredible and the exhibition as making a massive contribution.
The Senator noted that First Nations people had looked after our environment for thousands of years and that we all need to do so now. He suggested the participants’ engagement with the environment had gathered information that politicians could not ignore, and urged all present to fight for what they love – the bush capital and its landscape – by having hard cultural conversations with other Canberra residents and seeking to engage the next generation.
The many fine artworks on display are diverse – photography, video, drawings, painting, sketched and written journal entries, and more. It is difficult to single out some artworks for individual mention.
However, amongst those to which I was drawn was Bohie Palecek’s delightful and colourful portrait of herself with a bird on her shoulder.
Transformations Theme - Self-portrait by Bohie Palecek
Rainer Rehwinkle’s spectacular Grasslands was one of many standout photographic images.
Sense of Place theme - Rainer Rehwinkel - Grassland image-2
I also very much enjoyed David Flannery’s various quality bird images.
Transformations Theme - Choughs - Photography by David Flannery
Amongst the many collages is an excellent one of eucalypt bark abstracts.
Panel of eucalypt patterns - colours and textures by Terry Rushton (Installation shot)
Chris Lockley is showing a colourful image amongst another of the collages.
Waning Theme - Fungi photography by Chris Lockley
Sue Bond shares a delightful photo of a crane fly at a sundew .
Textures and Revelations Theme - A sundew with a crane fly Photography by Sue Bond
There also are many marvellous journal pages to flick through or explore carefully, depending how much time you are able to spend at the exhibition.
Emergence Theme - Nature journaling of grassland forbes by Julia Landford
Julia Landford 1
Waning Theme - nature journaling response by Fiona Boxall (watercolour sketch)
An engaging Nature Video by David Rees is also well worth viewing in its entirety. Images included in the video can be seen on his Flickr site here.
I could go on sharing details of individual artworks here for ever, but it would be much better to visit the exhibition for yourself if possible. If you can’t make it, take a look at the project’s Facebook page here.
I understand the organisers have been invited to show the work at Canberra Museum and Gallery in 2024, which is further recognition of the importance of our environment and the value of nature. It will provide another opportunity to see the artworks on display.
This review is also available on the author's blog here.