BY: SOPHIE JOYCE
“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.”
Vincent Van Gogh’s words ring especially true when one experiences a profound and conceptual piece of art complimenting the beauty of its surrounding nature. This is a pairing with which modern artists have been experimenting for years, and the wide variety of recently installed nature-based art across the world proves that nature is as big a muse as it always has been. Unique, surreal and striking – below are some amazing art installations worth knowing about.
Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Nevada desert is no stranger to experimental and contemporary art displays. Each year, the phenomenally popular ‘Burning Man’ provides a space for art, soul searching and social bonding. In sharp contrast to the hedonism and excessiveness of nearby Las Vegas, the annual event invites people to join in on a journey of truth-seeking and perspective-widening experiences. This year, a more permanent display was installed just ten mile south of the Sin City, near Jean Dry Lake. The exhibit consists of seven stacked towers of brightly coloured limestones. Ugo Rondinone, an internationally renowned Swiss artist, was commissioned by the The Art Production Fund of Nevada to create his so-called ‘Magic Mountains’ – a project which took him five years to complete. The bold colours of the limestone stands out against the plainer desert landscape, creating an bizarre but beautiful sight both from a distance and up close. Rondinone described this creative work as an expression of humans’ presence in the desert.
Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy
For two weeks this summer, 1.5 million visitors removed their shoes and walked on water at the beautiful Lake Iseo in Italy. Using 200,000 fully recyclable and high-density polyethylene blocks, the eccentric artist couple known as Christo and Jean-Claude subverted our perception of reality by creating a surreal and walkable path along the river. This orange pathway, like every other art exhibit the nature-focused couple install, was a huge hit. Many requested the duration of the project to be extended, but the two artists are firm in upholding the principle that underlies all their exhibits; that they be temporary, accessible to all, and free. Temporary or not, the dream-like moment of walking along Lake Iseo will never be forgotten by those lucky people who partook in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Willow Umbrella, Oulu, Finland
The self-described ‘environment artist’ Jaakko Pernu is famed for his willow sculptures, created from shaping the tough but pliant wood into over-sized everyday objects such as umbrellas or bottles. For twenty years, the Finnish sculptor has brought his unusual displays into inconspicuous public spaces. After completing his work, Pernu leaves the sculptures exposed to the natural elements so that they can grow and change with time and weather. The artist’s skill in creating such precise and elegant sculptures comes from his childhood experiences of building boats with his father. Though the willow installations are mostly found in Finland, there are permanent displays of Pernu’s work dotted throughout Europe and even Canada.
Fairytale Forest, Norway
In the deep, dark Norwegian woods, Rune Guneriussen finds his inspiration. From books to telephones, the artist places banal objects amidst the silent mystique of the forest, creating hypnagogic scenes which can induce a sense of both comfort and confusion. The careful placement of these items make them almost seem as if they are natural to their surroundings, growing straight out of the ground and alongside the trees. The soft glow from the globes and lamps also gives the scene an atmospheric aura of magic and enchantment. Guneriussen’s location-specific installations typically last for as long as it takes him to photograph them; fleeting moments captured in images and then shared with nature and art lovers at his frequent gallery exhibits.
Waterfall, Versailles, France
France’s iconic Palace of Versailles is already known for its opulent decor and grand architectural designs, but the latest art installation in the palace’s Grand Canal truly takes extravagance to another level. As if suspended in midair, the illusionary piece of art by Icelandic Olafur Eliasson shows a waterfall seemingly pouring straight out of the sky. The installation is just one of many that Eliasson now has displayed at the historically significant Versailles; all of which seek to engage the viewer’s senses whilst challenging the more conservative and rigid design devised by Louis XIV. Besides the waterfall, Eliasson has worked with elements of light, mirrors and smoke in his creation of imaginative visions for the palace grounds.
Contemporary aesthetics can confuse people at times – but so can Mother Nature. Perhaps this is why Paul Cezanne once said “art is a harmony parallel to nature.” Whether true or not, there’s no denying that a piece of art of a certain magnitude and creativity can stir powerful emotions in the observer.