Art and Coexistence with Nature


For artists, nature has always been the primary source of creativity and artistic inspiration. It inspires both the scenes and the raw materials that are the first influential variable. The artist has dealt with his surrounding nature since the dawn of humanity; artistic expression has been a direct language to portray daily events. Many cave drawings discovered in Europe and Africa are the best evidence of this eternal connection with nature. Cave artists used the available natural materials, such as natural oxides from stones and the blood of hunted animals. With evolution, humans began depicting their daily scenes, but the surfaces and materials differed; with the passing of time, they moved away from using natural materials to manufactured ones.

By the last quarter of the 20th century, with the emergence of the Ozone hole and other huge pollution issues worldwide and the spread of global calls to save the environment, artists reattempted to find solutions together with the community, to preserve the environment. As such, new types of art have emerged, such as art using scrap and recycled materials, followed by a tendency to use natural materials in their environment to preserve the ecological balance. This has directed artists to environmental and land arts.

At first glance, the titles may seem strange, but they are absolutely expressive of these modern art types that are originally ancient.

Land Art

It is an art created and developed from nature, using natural materials found on-site; the introduction of new elements is extremely limited. This art has let us reconsider nature and all available materials, and think of using methods that preserve the elements' identities and integration with nature. It also has contributed to increasing our appreciation of nature and its changes.

The oldest environmentally-related artwork is Stonehenge in the United Kingdom (UK); built in the late Neolithic period, it is considered the most famous archaeological site in Europe. It is a stone circle monument; each block weighing around 25 tons. This magnificent landmark is stable to this day, and no one knows yet how and why it was built.

Stonehenge. Source: Garethwiscombe/

Numerous artists excelled in this new art field; pictures of their artworks are widely spread across the Internet and on art sites; their artworks also appear at several modern art museums worldwide. Perhaps the most famous artist of the kind is Andy Goldsworthy from the UK—an artist, photographer, sculptor, ecologist, and environmental artist. He started his career as a professor of applied mathematics then studied art and specialized in sculpture. This enabled him to create pieces of art in nature, based on natural mathematics theories. Goldsworthy has used and merged the contrast of the colors of tree leaves, stones, and woods, to create beautiful art scenes.

Wall Drawing, Massachusetts. Credits: Andy Goldsworthy, Courtesy of Abrams Books. Source:

In this scene, we find a wall made of stones, twisted up and down, in the Massachusetts forest. The stones are held together without any adhesives, such as cement or clay, but rely on the theories of friction and gravity. It was carried out in 2014 and is inspired by the ancient history of the region and the collapsed ancient walls.

The second work is Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson; constructed in Ohio, USA, in 1970, it is considered the most famous land art sculpture. It is inspired by snake movements and expresses the period before Columbus discovered America. The spiral sculpture is made of basalt and clay, and is colored with salt crystals from the Great Salt Lake, which sometimes flood it; Smithson calls it "abstract geology".

Spiral Jetty. Credits: George Steinmetz, Courtesy of Dia Art Foundation, New York, Holt-Smithson Foundation/Licensed by Vaga, New York. Source:

Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada

The next artwork is the Seven Magical Mountains by Swiss artist Uogo Rondinone, constructed in the Nevada desert, in 2016. It is made of seven columns from stacked cheerful fluorescent-colored rocks that reflect the spirit of nearby Las Vegas. The height of the columns is about 9,144 meters; it is located in an easily accessible location, so it receives around 1,000 visitors per day.

Seven Magic Mountains. Credits: Gianfranco Gorgoni, Courtesy of Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art. Source:

The last artwork is by the American artist Andres Amador, who is best known for his large-scale geometric and organic drawings on sandy beaches. He grew up in San Francisco and obtained a bachelor's degree in environmental science. He started his career as a computer technician and then became an environmental or land art pioneer, carrying out huge artworks that depend on photography.

Source: Parth Vanpariya/

In the end, this is just a glimpse of modern and aspiring arts that preserve the environment and direct people's eyes to its beauty and diverse resources. Some people may agree or disagree, but they are clean arts that do not cause any pollution; they use diverse materials that are highly integrated with their surrounding environment. The most significant drawback is being an ephemeral art; the artworks cannot be preserved as lasting objects, which has been the first and supreme goal of arts since the dawn of time.


This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Winter/Spring 2020 issue.

Cover image Source: Parth Vanpariya/Flickr/.com

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