Natalie Field’s highly anticipated Human.Nature opens at Berman Contemporary in Sandton from 5 – 19 April 2018. Field provided Creative Feel with in-depth insight into the creation of the works on exhibit and the thinking behind them.
The story of our universe begins with a singularity. Due to some inconceivable force, space expanded, and matter formed. The stars, the earth, oceans, animals and even our bodies, are all made from this matter that has existed since the beginning of time. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has a term for this collective: NATURE. We are, quite literally, stardust.
Human.Nature considers humanity and our relationship with nature: both the external environment as well as our inner biology. It reflects upon matter (creation, the body) and form (consciousness, the soul). It is a return to nature. The city-dweller reconnecting with the earth. Soft moss under bare feet. Cold air against warm body. The body that will eventually return to the soil to give life anew.
This body of work is very personal to me; it is my reaction to the fear of dying, my search for solace. As such, I thought it pertinent to act as the protagonist in these narratives concerned with the balance between life and death, and vice versa. While Nature is the underlying theme of the work, there are several subtexts worth mentioning.
The cosmos as a cyclical, closed system that demands balance, supports philosophies on non-duality. My work reflects the principle of the Tao Taijitu: the yin and yang illustrating the interconnectedness of contradictory, yet complimentary dualistic forces that together create a monistic whole.
This mercurial and ephemeral nature of Nature is explored through concepts around creation, evolution and metamorphosis. Einstein’s first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. Through my work, I wish to celebrate this infinite cycle of life and alleviate the fear of death. For, in time, this energy that was once you will transmute to form new life.
To me, this continuation of the life-force is the transmigration of the soul.
Human.Nature was first conceived while in residence at the Arteles Creative Centre in Finland, where I spent the month of October 2016 wandering the forests, rediscovering what it means to be human. The resulting body of work includes a photo-essay of cinematic tableaux, large format photo-montages, botanicals, cyanotypes and a video installation.
Creating in a foreign environment, it was important to me to draw inspiration from the Finnish landscape and culture. Several images from the cinematic series are imbued with narratives from Finno-Ugric mythologies surrounding concepts of the soul and the transmigration thereof.
For this, I studied two texts. The first is a volume entitled Mythologies of All Races: Finno-Ugric, Siberiaby Uno Holmberg, which I discovered during my visit to the National Library in Helsinki. The second, the Kalevala: a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.
For example, the tableau Sielulintu narrates the folktale of a mythical bird that delivers a human’s soul at birth and returns upon their death to carry it back to Tuonela (the underworld). This ‘soul-bird’ was known as the Sielulintu.
Working remotely in the forest environment to create these cinematic tableaux, it soon came to light that it was an opportunity to add a new skill to my repertoire: performance art. This required of me to develop a new process. Once I established the scene for an image, I set the camera up on a tripod, and used the intervalometer to automatically capture images at predefined intervals. During these exposures, I would act out the narrative to interpret the scene through movement and dance.
An alternative approach to the visual interpretation of these themes is through large-format photo-montages in which biological forms are woven together to illustrate the reciprocal interaction found throughout nature. Using digital technology as an essential tool in the creative process, elements captured in digital photographs and digitised objects are deconstructed, to be reconstructed into new realities. Fuelled by an interest in anatomy, zoology, entomology and botany, these artworks explore the tentative relationship between humanity and its environment. More than celebrating the beauty of nature, they highlight the interdependence of biotic life forms and their micro-habitats; and the importance of the conservation of this ecosystem that we call home: earth.
Much as evolution is a theme in the work itself, the techniques I practice have also evolved to include a variety of art forms. Besides the photographic works, this collection also includes traditionally processed cyanotype prints of botanicals and other found objects, as well as a video installation that takes the motion element in my work to the next level.I invite you to experience the interconnectedness of the full collection of Human.Nature as it finally comes together at the Berman Contemporary art gallery in Sandton in April 2018.