PHOTOGRAPHY BY FOUR ARTISTS
The interplay between people and environment is at the heart of this body of work. Four artists— Nichola Clark, Jonathan Pilkington, Claire Price and Andrew B. White—present visions of nature and interiors that conceal—or reveal—vestiges of a human presence.
Anthropocene is the contentious term for the age we live in. Literally anthropo “man” cene “new”, it refers to the first era in which humans have had a permanent impact on Earth. Our relationship with the natural world is timeless and essential, but the accelerating rate of climate change has brought the discussion about our responsibility for nurturing the environment into stark relief. In these works, we see a spectrum of desire to capture, influence, understand, and form a spiritual connection with the world we inhabit. What appears to be untouched is not, and what is visibly manipulated reveals a deep fascination with how we can alter nature and manufacture environments.
Clark’s photographs explore land and belonging. Hiruhārama (Jerusalem) in New Zealand is home to the Ngāti Hau (people of the Whanganui River) and the historical site of a missionary orphanage and a 1970s commune. Clark’s work invites us into a setting rich with stories and potency, where people came to be nurtured by the spiritual and corporeal bounty of the land, leaving faint traces of their presence.
Pilkington’s work focuses on the relationship humans have with stone: how we have sought to move and manipulate stone and invest it with meaning, throughout human history. Stone and rocks are vessels of communication and ritual, and have accreted new meaning for groups of people over thousands of years.
In Price’s vision, humans are capable of manipulating and destroying nature and all its beauty, even as we try to capture it to our own advantage. Taxidermy manifests how we at times put absurd constraints on nature, in our attempts to hold on to it. Photography itself is a medium that has sought the same result, and Price’s work reminds us that the artist’s eye is also framing and manipulating our views on nature.
Many of White’s views of the natural world are in fact of Prospect Park in New York, and reveal the constructed vistas of an urban park, within the constructed views of the artist. Sites of busy human activity are transformed by the play of light and seasonal change, concealing or revealing the trace of our presence in architecture or the stark forms of an empty theme park.
All originally from Aotearoa New Zealand, these artists embody a heritage of kaitiakitanga: the Māori concept of guardianship. The anthropocene age represents an opportunity for the race to honor its role as kaitiaki (stewards) of the environment. There is a yearning in these works for finding our place in the natural order of things and guiding the future through a relationship of reciprocity with the world we live in.
Text by Amanda White
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