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Art's Reflection on Nature

Artist Bernard Garò

2022-07-15 13:01 Posted on 北京


Environmental Art Interview Series VI/A

"Environmental Art Interview Series" is a new themed artistic column initiated by The Parkview Museum Beijing following the "Digital Art Interview Series" in 2021. This series of articles focuses on the development of contemporary environmental art and its derived cultural phenomenon. In the form of interviews, each issue invites worldwide well-known environmental art-related contemporary artists, promoters, and collectors to interpret the diverse creativity presented by environmental art through their unique perspectives. Your paintings are characterized by a rich palette and by the usage of natural elements such as natural pigments, earth, volcanic sand, and organic powder. Is this a way to establish a connection with nature?

As we face serious environmental problems, mostly linked to carbon dioxide pollution, it is no longer possible today to ignore the heavy impact we, humans, leave on our environment. The period of instability that we are going through due to the pandemic and the war has highlighted doubts about our way of living. However, I am convinced that art, through its power of communication, without necessarily proposing solutions, can still stimulate reflections, social transformations, and revelations of the beauty around us. Induced by this context, it seems normal that artists, alongside scientists, philosophers, and politicians, address the need to recreate a real awareness and connection with our mother-earth in all human activities, in order to try to save our humanity from a decline that might cause dramatic natural catastrophes and social ruptures. Indeed, these themes are now becoming essential for contemporary artists. Two main artistic tendencies are emerging in the latest years: the first concerns artists engaged in a "relational art", which builds forms around the social sphere; the second includes artists who reflect on the future of our planet and who want to participate in the change of our society by addressing the increasingly dramatic consequences of climate changes. In the light of these considerations, I feel that I belong to this second group. In my artistic practice, I developed a personal palette using exclusively natural elements which effectively create links with nature: this connection with nature is a fundamental principle of my artistic approach because I believe that my responsible and contextualized artistic commitment can contribute to the evolution of our way of interacting all together in harmony against this global scourge. In my work, I transpose what touches me the most: a space in which human existence does not appear as such, but it is restored in its cosmic or geological situation represented in the general context of the biomass. As I set up temporalities on a large scale, my art can be associated with a so-called "neo-metaphysical" movement of contemporary art: this movement, evoking the beginning of the 21st century, will probably be included one day in future books of art history, given the fact that artists belonging to this movement interrogate themselves about the meaning of their activities in this world in danger. I would describe this environment as "great outside": this definition suggests a reality beyond the visible dimension, including the past as well as the future, affecting the elements in permanent transformation, such as rock, magma, ice, water, and micro-organisms down to atoms. These elements, playing the role of symbolic interlocutors, represent the basis of my pictorial works. In this context, my painting takes natural materials as a starting point to reinvent nature, reinterpret it plastically, and transpose it, while creating a physical presence and a deep meaning. My works are made of crushed rocks, volcanic ash, and marine sediments collected during my travels, under glaciers, on cliffs by the sea, or in the heart of volcano craters (ephemeral friable elements which would naturally disappear under the combined effect of wind, sand and water, tides, and ice retreat and thaw). The fragments of nature captured on my canvases, come to life by constituting an entirely natural identity skin, artistically reviving the awareness of the perpetual cycles of erosion and time. Bringing true nature into a painting is like creating the skin of our origin, opening up a much wider field of perception than the Anthropocene. Painting has never been an image, but above all, a material, a vibration, a structure with colors, and an energy that provides emotions. This is why I attach importance to the choice of natural elements that I integrate into my work to create this new pictorial skin, which carries the memory of our humanity and our origins through certain old materials of millions of years. Isn’t experiencing nature through the matter it is made of the best way to reflect on visual images of the real condition of our environment? Telling the truth, it stimulates thinking about our future. In this context, the beauty of landscape, mountains, and glaciers conveys a sense of urgency, as these natural elements risk disappearing or facing irreversible damage if nothing changes. This cannot leave anyone indifferent. In this search for contextualization, the matter remains our ultimate link to reality (through emotion and sense) which carries the memory of the cycles and movements of its history. Ultimately, art must be able to convey universal and multiple thoughts, which question our relationship with our environment, while serving the artist's creative journey. The project ARIL refers to your artistic research on 4 cities, namely Alexandria, Reykjavik, Istanbul, and Lisbon. What do these cities have in common and what was the project about? As I have been interested in the relationship between man and his environment for a very long time, I have been engaged in this project for more than 20 years. In this timeframe, I traveled to different cities located at a similar distance from my country and more precisely from the symbolic barrier of the Alps, in a North-South and East-West orientation. Switzerland is located in the heart of the mountain chains, which constitute the center of Europe and its water tower, creating a natural border with Italy that separates the north and the south of the continent. By deciding to realize the project in these cities we are less familiar with, my aim is to question our vulnerability to natural forces. Nature can sometimes undermine cities and annihilate people who might end up finding themselves in a marginal position and on the bench of oblivion because of an unpredictable earthquake. My own country so far seems to be a benchmark for security in Europe; however, this condition of security is also what makes it fragile at the same time, because no one is immune to nature in fury and ready for a tectonic shock of plates and earthquakes (Lisbon 1755), volcanic eruptions (Reykjavik 2021) or tsunamis (Alexandria 365 AD). Our earth is constantly in motion and in transformation. Maintaining a stable and safe posture seems utopian in this context: history proves that stability is a temporary condition and therefore the question is always “for how long we can enjoy this stability?”. Pandemic made us face our condition of instability and insecurity: it goes without saying that man is vulnerable in relation to his environment. However, this awareness could also be beneficial to us: usually, doubts and questions, rather than certainties, enable humans to understand their world and to better accept the unknown in a permanent critical questioning approach enriched by cultural openness, solidarity, and the tendency to evolution, which represent the driving forces of art. During my exploration of these cities, I have realized that aside from earthquakes and vulnerable fate, some common experiences and themes connect these cities: they are characterized by blurred boundaries between natural and man-made elements, deserts, oceans, mountains, volcanoes, symbols of architecture in relation to nature, such as cultural memory, ruins, and chaos. These elements are universal themes that allow us to unveil the condition of this world in danger and to question our position on earth, while also encouraging us to look at the future with more respect and humility. Bernard Garo was born in 1964. He studied art history, architecture, and Egyptology at the University of Geneva, before continuing his studies at the Art University of Lausanne (ECAL). He graduated in 1989, with honors and was awarded in painting, photography, and xylography. He currently lives and works between Beijing (CHN), Paris (FR), and Nyon (CH), located on the shores of the Lake of Geneva in Switzerland. Over the years, his concepts often took him between Paris, Barcelona, and Berlin and later to Alexandria, Reykjavik, Lisbon, and Istanbul. Recently his projects have taken him from Beijing to Moscow to confront other places and create bridges between them through the development of an artistic thought related to the memory and the relationship of man with his close environment, revealing his universal vulnerability. His works have been presented in group and solo exhibitions in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Monaco, Russia, and China.

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