humans in the landscape, the landscape in humans
Three artists stood out for me at the recent Ballarat International Foto Biennale, all women as it happened. Each one uses her photographic art to depict nature in relation to humanity, in original, surreal, fascinating, provocative ways.
I enjoy taking and seeing endless photos of lovely gardens and nature scenes, but this is different. This is truly fine art photography - displaying the artists' unique, personal and passionate vision of nature and our place within it.
Bindi Cole Chocka Fertility
Bindi Cole Chocka's art comes out of her lived experience as a light skinned, Christian, Aboriginal woman who doesn't fit into the neat categories of identity that society tries to impose on its members. A recent series of works, Fertility, merges images of her son, Eli - the source of her joy - with images of her ancestral land, Wathaurong Country - the source of her strength.
Growing up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, photographer Gohar Dashti is familiar with the horror of war. She took these powerful photos of decaying crumbling buildings in Iran. Abandoned by their human inhabitants, the houses are in the process of being taken over by various kinds of vegetation. This series is called Home.
In conversation with Sarah Moroz, Dashti describes her work as combining the personal, the political and the botanical.
"... My recent work is not only a personal exploration about nature, but is also about how nature can be political. What happens to the environment when human populations are displaced or destroyed by war? People are transient while nature is a constant; it will be here long after we are all gone."
I find this theme terribly sad but also in a way, strangely reassuring.
The last artist I'm featuring is Australian, Tamara Dean. Here's just a small selection of my favourites from her 2017 series, Instinctual. In this series Tamara explores the relationship between humans and the natural world and shows that we are undisputedly a part of nature.
|Under the Deep|
"I love waterholes and rivers, where the water is cloudy and dense. I wanted to explore our integral relationship with water, both environmentally and personally. I've used human figures in a way that refers to fish shoaling. I was trying to create images that have a subtle way of communicating that relationship to how we evolved." (Tamara Dean in an interview with Pip Coates)
"I could see the absolutely beautiful light as I worked, but photography isn't a literal translation of what you're looking at. I was really relieved that I was able to capture that quality of light in these images. I have to get everyone in place and hope that something like that happens... You can't predict it. You just have to hope for a little bit of magic in the air." (Tamara Dean in an interview with Pip Coates)
In one short day we were unable to see all the artwork shown all over the city of Ballarat. So I just looked for artists who depicted nature in a way that was meaningful to me. For these women there's no way of separating us from nature, because it's a part of us, just as we're a part of it.
"We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we've lost our connection to ourselves."
- Andy Goldsworthy, sculptor, photographer and environmentalist