FWIS 134 - The Art of Coexistence: Man in the Realm of Nature


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The world around us seems to be unobtrusive to our everyday lives, giving us a background to our goals and ambitions. However, the connection between mankind as a whole and nature is inalienable and important. As our world becomes entrenched in the developments of man, nature seems to be losing its dominance. The Art of Coexistence: Man in the Realm of Nature showcases the complex interactions between man and nature, displaying the struggles for power, balance, and perpetuation. Does man dominate nature? Can nature be tamed? Will humanity be able to coexist with the endlessness of the natural world around us? The emphasis on this age old dichotomy has transformed immensely in recent history, and the survival of both man and nature depends on how we view this struggle. 

Travelers Among Mountains and Streams, Fan Kuan, Song Dynasty (10th Century) - Song Dynasty (Early 11th Century), From the collection of: National Palace Museum
Painted during the 10th century in ancient China, this piece is an interpretation of nature in a predeveloped society. The sheer size of the landscape, seen through the towering mountainside, compared to the nearly invisible group of travelers walking down the small dirt road, reveals the ominous power that nature holds. This painting concludes that the role of nature is dominant over the significance of mankind.
A Storm at Sea, a Castro, Lorenzo, 1664-86, From the collection of: Dulwich Picture Gallery
A Storm at Sea depicts human's struggle against the Mother Nature. The main subject matter in this painting is a wood ship driving into the painting. The background is filled with detailed dark clouds over the ship. However, The sky is clear and bright on the right of the picture over the shore where there is a village. Although this painting shows development of mankind on the ground, it still represents the period when human has to conform to the nature, especially under the condition of natural disasters.
Haitian Landscape, Joseph Jean-Gilles, 1970, From the collection of: Inter-American Development Bank
This vibrantly colored painting depicts a scene of Haitian farmers who appear to be harvesting crops in a lush, green landscape of rolling hills and thriving flora. This painting is very positive, showing that nature and man can exist together in a way that is mutually beneficial for all.
The Fall of Man and The Lamentation, Hugo van der Goes, 1470/1475, From the collection of: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
The Fall of Man is a religious painting depicting the scene in which Eve, being tempted by a serpent, picks a piece of fruit from the forbidden tree and shares it with Adam, resulting in them both being sent away from the Garden of Eden. The background is painted in a naturalistic manner with dull colors, creating contrast with the expected scene of a paradise oasis. This piece creates a metaphor of man disobeying the natural law and the consequences of doing so.
Machine B3 and Nature (in the Bible), Ambrogio Magnaghi, 1963, From the collection of: Museo Diocesano Milano
This desolate scene features two solitary objects - a rusted, metal machine and a nearly bare bush. The foggy sky and dead surroundings create an eerie, hopeless feeling within the audience. The only two subject matters illustrates the dichotomy between nature and man. This painting contemplates man’s true intentions and begs the question, does man want to embrace desolation and dominate nature, or are we willing to be equal and invite nature into our development?
The Hand of Man, Alfred Stieglitz, 1902, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
The dull setting of this photograph, featuring several intertwining railways, a dark train spouting clouds of black smoke, factory stacks along the horizon, and never-ending strings of power lines, captures the essence of the industrial revolution. Explicit in its display of man’s domination over nature, different shades of brown contribute to the image of pollution, dirt, and grime that filled the environment during this era.
This photograph, depicting a sort of ship graveyard, illustrates man’s lack of regard towards nature. The picture focuses on a partially dismantled ship along the ocean shore, but also includes two other ships further out in the water that are also waiting to be disassembled. Scraps of the ships can be seen thrown away on the shore, allowing rust to accumulate while leftover oil pollutes the water. It appears that man treats the ocean, and all of nature for that matter, as a trashcan for our old and unwanted creations.
Instant Landscape- machine #5, Kim, Nampyo, 2010, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Instant Landscape- machine #5 provides a dreamlike scene of nature's influence on the creations of man. A car is adorned with flowers and filled with a waterfall while zebra heads are posted on either front wheel well. The sports car elicits thoughts of power and speed, but where did those ideas first come from? The inspiration that man can draw from nature is endless, and shows just one of the interactions that we have with the naturalistic side of our instincts. However, the car also represents the our destruction of nature, as transportation is one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions.
print; coloured etching and aquatint - A Balloon View of London as seen from Hampstead, Banks & Co.; Wilson, Effingham, 1851, From the collection of: Museum of London
This piece is a colored etching and aquatint print displaying an aerial view of London, England. It features neutral colors, such as brown and cream, in areas filled with buildings, roads, and factories with a few splotches of green where a park or field must lie. While a river still flows through the center of the city, it is clear that industry has taken over nature and modified it completely for our own development. This painting illustrates the vastness of man’s development dominating the naturally occurring world.
Nature- Secrecy 08-10-2, Kim, Jai Kwan, 2010, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Here, four sections define a dichotomy of organic and inorganic. We The four sections show different scenes that connect to each other while establishing a contrasting idea. On the bottom left, a rendition of Earth suspended in space shows a basic organic being, as the naturalistic imagery of our planet demands to be seen. From here, we are prompted to move our view to the bottom right by some dotted lines, which introduce us to the geometry of the piece. At the bottom right, a red square on a grey field begins to blend into the next scene. As we follow the line, we move to the upper right, which is a scene depicting a road cutting through some grassy plain. Above the road, geometric squares end the lines route. Finally, we the last quadrant contains a purely geometric rendition of a hypercube in yellow, green, and blue, showing the end of the organic.
Peinture/Nature Morte, Patrick Henry Bruce, c. 1920 - 1921, From the collection of: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Peinture/Nature Morte is an abstract painting comprises basic geometric forms. The title suggests the painting as a pure human creation (the peinture) with a lack of naturalistic element. In this picture, natural elements are completely removed to suggest the death of nature. This divergence of nature is further illustrated by the artist’s deliberate randomization of light source, shadows and perspectives in an unnatural way. This types of pure geometric aesthetics speaks to designs made by man and how that has taken away from the natural.
Abbey among Oak Trees, Caspar David Friedrich, 1809/1810, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
This painting uses a dreadful scene to illustrate the destruction that man and nature can have on each other. It features a deserted graveyard filled with the remains of ancient, weathered tombstones and creature-like oak trees that are bare and stripped of their leaves under a dimly lit sky at dawn. Here, nature appears to have outlasted man, however, it is still clear that nature has been maltreated through its relationship with mankind .
Lying Down on a Green Mountain, Kim, Seong Ryong, 1991, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
This tragic piece focuses on a fragile looking, old woman lying down along a river with the body of a recently killed cow. The woman appears to be distressed and angry as she latches on to the torso of the animal in a fetal like position. We know the cow to be dead because of the stream of blood seeping into the river from the animals mouth. In addition, there is a syringe stabbed into the cheek of the cow's face. The bright tones of the painting along with the detailed anguish in the face of the woman and animal evoke a feeling of rage in the viewer. We are empathetic towards the pair, causing us to contemplate the treatment of nature in the world around us.
I AM THE RIVER, Eva Koch, 2012, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
I AM THE RIVER is a sheer-sized installation created by man depicting the form of nature. This 40 feet installation consists of a giant screen playing the video of a waterfall with sound across the entire hall. The title I AM THE RIVER suggests the explicitness of indications of the quality of a river by this artwork. Instead of creating a convincing environment of nature, the installation creates a river by quoting the sheer size, visual scenes and the sound of a waterfall in a warehouse.
Ferment, Roxy Paine, 2011, From the collection of: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
This is a massive-size sculpture in the form and scale of a real tree from nature. Roxy Paine welded stainless steel using cutting-edge human technology in an organic way to mimic the form of nature. Located in the outdoor area of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, this man-made structure is surrounded by natural trees in similar size. The steel surface of the structure is able to reflect the green color from the grass and other trees and hence make the sculpture more naturalistic and convincing.
Pot2006, Kim, Do Myoung, 2006, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Artist Do Myoung Kim created a series of installations by planting young trees in vases made of cardboard and placing them back in forest. This installation sets up an immediate comparison between the trees grown in the ground and the ones in the vases. The addition of human element in this forest indicates the artificiality of nature. This manipulation of nature is intruding and indeed unnatural.
All is Vanity, Kim, Do Myoung, 2006, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
This sculpture uses soil, seeds, and a book titled “365 Pep Talks from Buddha” to form a vase for a small, green treelike plant. The vase, composed of layers of pages carved out of the book in a globular shape, creates irony between the living plant and the paper that holds it because paper is made from trees. This piece shows mans attempt to be one with nature, but presents a conflict between our intentions and our actions.
Dream of Green, Kim, Do Myoung, 2006, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Dream of Green shows an abstract scene of man and nature. Literally, the scene depicts greenery growing out of the hair of several different figures, showing only their faces in a series of relaxed expressions on backgrounds of neutral brown shades. This piece displays a symbolic interconnection between nature and humanity. The relaxed vibes may be one side effect of this unity between these competing powers, perhaps showcasing a hopeful outlook.
MetamorphosisIV, Kim, Juyeon, 2012, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Here, construction pallets are stacked haphazardly, however, a garden of alfalfa grows out of a portion of the structures side. This piece is essentially living, with greenery thriving on the side of the man made structure. Here we look at the connection that is possible between both elements. We can invite nature into our creations, although risking artificiality, and spearhead a movement toward coexistence. We can incorporate.
Human and Nature, Park, Dae Cho, 2011, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
Finally, we look at Human and Nature. This piece displays the irony of our dilemma with nature. As the child looks over an icy scene, we are invited to connect the two images. The child identifies those that are most affected by our actions today as well as those that are still blameless, while the glacial landscape elicits imagery of one of the most pressing pieces of evidence of the damage we have done to our environment. Do we protect the future and solve these problems now? Or do we continue giving in to the prisoner's dilemma that has made progress difficult?
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