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Intricacies of Land Art – Part 1

At a time when our relationship with the environment is becoming more and more unstable, environmental art is more important than it’s ever been. People have changed the environment ever since prehistoric times but have also worked to forge a relationship with nature through stone circles, megaliths, and cave wall paintings. Since those times, a number of elements of nature have deeply affected artists, such as patterns, colours, and images. Environmental art is a term often used to encompass Eco Art, Earthworks, Earth Art, and Land Art. It looks at everything from past approaches to nature in art to more recent political and ecological works that largely embrace the artist’s relationship with nature using natural materials. Generally, it can be said that the goal of environmental art is to enhance our relationship with nature. That explains why it includes art that interacts with, and observes, the natural world, art that enhances or reclaims physical environments, and art that interacts with the social environment with activist or pedagogical intent.

Early history

Nature has been the primary theme for creative art for hundreds of years. There’s an argument to suggest that it began with the Paleolithic cave paintings that represented human figures, animals, and other elements of nature that our ancestors considered to be important. Modern environmental art examples derive from landscape painting and representation. Post-Enlightenment society in the West started to transition away from the grain living, ranches, and trading farms, for cities and towns. This transition from nature, along with a growth in discovery and science, resulted in a rebellious phase known as the Romantic movement. That became the Neo-Romantic movement after the Industrial Revolution. Artists started to worship the wonder and magnificence of nature and believed that man should retain its relationship with it. With the goal of seeing man return to his natural roots, they emphasised sculpture, music, and images that celebrated natural beauty at its most glorious. John Constable is the most famous artist in this genre and was best known for his natural images and landscapes that offered an idealised look at those who lived as one with nature.

The introduction of land art installations

During the 1960’s social and political upheavals, artists in Europe and the United States challenged the conventions of painting and worked with new methods of responding to nature. This led to the movement known as Land Art. As opposed to recreating the landscape, artists began to work outside and sculpted the very land itself. This move represented an avant-garde idea regarding sculpture, the landscape, and our connection to it. Many works of Land Art featured large shapes that were carved in remote places of the earth.

While Land Art is often used interchangeably with Environmental Art, some theoreticians have argued that the former was borne out of the latter. Some artists would suggest that early Land Art is about using nature and the land as a means of self-expression or exploration of natural beauty or artistic ideas, rather than being about direct activism, ecology, or restoration.

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