Isn’t this something?
This stunning creation by Natasha Bieniek is the winner of the prestigious 2015 Wynne Prize for the best landscape painting of an Australian scene. It is entitled Biophilia.
The exquisite detail in the painting is cause enough for admiration, but the realisation that all the detail is captured in a painting only 9 x 9 cm in size transforms admiration into awe.
Natasha says that she is particularly interested in the impact of nature within an urban environment.
My miniature oil painting, Biophilia, is part of a recent series that explores the way humans relate to the natural world. Biophilia literally means ‘love of life’ and references a scientific study that suggests our tendency to affiliate with nature is inherent and integral to our psychological and physical development. The inner-city landscape depicted in my painting illustrates a sense of tranquility that contrasts with its active surroundings. My intention is to draw focus on such diverse pockets of nature, and present the idea that we, as humans, are not above nature but very much a part of it.
Apart from being an artistic tour de force, the painting reveals a deep insight into the features of nature that most reliably and powerfully evoke biophilic thoughts, emotions and actions.
Note, for example:
- The mix of light and shade
- The rich diversity of vegetation
- The deep blue of the sky
- The tall tree with an open canopy (on the left)
- The fractal (fragmented but repeated patterns) structures formed by the branches of the tree on the left
- The winding path that takes the viewer’s eye towards a “mysterious” distance
- The absence (almost) of people
- The yellow and red colours providing a counterpoint to the various shades of green
In this, another of Natasha’s miniatures in the “biophilia” series, she captures superbly what is arguably the most powerful biophilic features of all – still water bounded by greenery. This painting is also extraordinarily rich in fractal images – in the contours as well as the branches of the trees and shrubs.
(With thanks to Wendy for the link) I am now aware of at least one other artist who has been inspired by biophilia. Christopher Marley, who describes himself as a “chronically afflicted biophiliac”, is an artist/photographer who creates patterns and mosaics using insects, shells and other life forms. Here are examples from his book, Biophilia:
Marley collects the specimens for his art work in ethical and sustainable ways, working closely with scientists, reputable collectors and institutions. Marley explains what he is trying to achieve in this way:
I have found that when my subjects are meticulously composed, it makes the translation more intelligible for the public at large, just as random music notes, once properly orchestrated, can enter the heart and sway it almost against our volition. Once an appreciation for the aesthetics of insects is born, it is amazing how quickly old prejudiced and stereotypes fall away. When people begin to see beauty where they had previously known only a mundane, distasteful, or even frightening world of arcane organisms, positive changes in their perceptions of arthropods as a whole are sure to follow.
His primary purpose, Marley himself says, is to bring people joy. I have no problem with that. But I do question the assumption he appears to be making that insects and other “mundane” creatures need to be dressed up as art works in order to be attractive. In my experience, taking the time to look is all that is required to discover the intrinsic beauty in nature’s creepy crawlies, like this tiny Australian Peacock Spider, for example.
I enthusiastically commend Marley’s understanding of biophilia, however.
It is a symbiotic relationship. The more we grow in understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the more we invest in it, the greater the peace, satisfaction, and joy we receive from our association in return, just as we involuntarily develop love for those people we truly understand and serve. As with all ordained goodness, the more we give, the more we receive.