When art helps shape our envir

Oliver Barnett – ‘Olecordia’

When art helps shape our environment: African artists on show at London exhibition

Next Tuesday at the Hoxton Arches, a Zimbabwean (Gordon Glyn-Jones), a South African, (Christiaan Nagel) an English artist living in Cape Town (Oliver Barnett), will join eleven other UK artists for a group show called Human Nature a celebration of emerging and cutting edge environmental art.

When art helps shape our envir

Oliver Barnett – ‘Olecordia’

Human Nature: An exhibition of visual art exploring our changing relationship with the environment, is the brainchild of Charlotte Webster of Good Shout Studio, a seasoned renewables campaigner and professional artist in her own right and is sponsored by Abundance Generation, a crowd funding organisation that supports renewable energy projects. The art investigates our complicated relationship with nature, at a time where saving the environment has finally clicked in the mainstream mind.

We talked to the three artists with an African connection:

Gordon Glyn-Jones - 'Chiralt 2'
Gordon Glyn-Jones – ‘Chiralt 2’

Gordon Glyn-Jones, why is this show revolutionary from an artist’s perspective?
Gordon Glyn-Jones: When Charlotte Webster initially approached me to be in the show I was hesitant to be identified as an ‘environmental artist’ as I believe my art should ask questions more than proffer answers. However the show has been sensitively curated to present a range of world views, from street artists, to highly reputable landscape artists and up-cycling craftspeople. From an artist’s perspective, Abundance Generation supporting the show means that the artists aren’t charged commission, which is also very rare. Abundance are building a cleaner earth and now helping to nurture those with the creative vision to enrich people’s minds. It’s a perfect symbiosis.

Your work is very confrontational, why the anger?
Gordon Glyn-Jones: My paintings and drawings represent two opposite ends of the spectrum… Yin and Yang, if you like? The drawings are generally delicate and calm, but the paintings however, should be viewed like totem pole or perhaps horror movies; all are designed to open up a visceral and spiritual response. They may be aggressive, but they’re also quite playful, like folk stories where the children get eaten by witches. It’s mischief with a sting in the tail.

Oliver Barnett - 'Olecordia'
Oliver Barnett – ‘Olecordia’

Oliver Barnett, your work is deeply embedded in representations of the natural world and the Human Nature show investigates humanity’s relationship with nature. How important do you think it is for artists to take part in the conversation about protecting the environment?

Oliver Barnett: Every day we encounter aspects of human behaviour that amaze and appal us. Creativity, along with acts of kindness and courage play a vital part in the collective belief in the human spirit. The opportunity for artists and creatives in particular, is to attempt to express the ineffable, where words and explanations do not suffice. I see this change becoming widespread on the individual level, the great challenge lies in the mobilization of minds.

Can you talk us through your process; how do you choose your subject matter, what are the deeper connections you make with the scenes?

Oliver Barnett: Around the time I moved to South Africa from the UK, I became deeply absorbed by its wild rugged landscapes, which are so stark in contrast to the beautiful but largely manicured English countryside. I spent much time exploring these new environs and felt like I was being guided to places of inexplicable beauty and mystery. The images started to emerge as a dialogue, to give back to these experiences of freedom and connection.

You are an English artist working in SA, how do the two art scenes compare?

Oliver Barnett: I confess I don’t spend much time looking into the art scene and related trends and try focus on the work. It is impossible to compare the two scenes for the disparity in scale, but the London art scene, to me, feels so bound in trends and hype there’s very little room for buying a piece based on an emotional response to the work. I feel equally frustrated at the amount of arbitrary art taking wall space, whilst so many amazing artists wait for their chance to shine.

Christiaan Nagel, you are well known in the street art scene for your iconic mushroom sculptures which pop up in unexpected places. Your new work involves shoals of flying fish, what’s the story behind the new works?

Christiaan Nagel: I have been working on a brand new concept entitled ‘The Fi Of The Underworld’. (Fi being the plural for these metaphysical fish). It represents a fantasy future, an exciting but unknown and bizarrely strange time for mankind. The Fi of the underworld is the first sign that we are entering the spiritual world. The Fi are shoals of fish that appear in great numbers, hundreds of thousands. They swim vertically from deep below the ground and thrust their way through the earth’s surface, gravity and natural laws have long surpassed us now. This is where we get deeper and deeper into our own subconscious minds. This world will be accessed by consuming a type of Psilocybin with the nickname, Manna. This is not a bio-chemical reaction but a spiritual merging of the person and nature.

Human Nature: An exhibition of visual art exploring our changing relationship with the environment.
Hoxton Arches, Cremer St, London E2 8HD 14 & 15 October 2014 11am-5pm

Also see: www.gordonglyn-Jones.com, http://oliverbarnett.co.za/, http://christiaannagel.co.uk/