Rhiannon Evetts - Nature Recovery Engagement Officer
Art is inherently linked to Nature and our wonder of the natural world. Artists have long been inspired by our landscapes and wildlife. “Nothing is art if it does not come from Nature” (Antoni Gaudi). In more recent years, it has been recognised that this deep relationship can be tapped into and used as a tool to aid conservation and education.
Painting - Kurt Jackson 'Biodiversity'
Kurt Jackson’s ‘Biodiversity Exhibition’, currently at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, uses his paintings to engage and further people’s appreciation of nature as well as their understanding of difficult conservation topics. His painting of ‘Mermaid’s Tears’ draws focus to the resin nurdles used in manufacturing plastic which pollute the environment and “blight our oceans”. These nurdles are colloquially known as mermaids’ tears. This piece alone, shows how art can empower and inspire whilst acting as a powerful teaching method. Throughout the exhibition, he works taxonomy into his paintings to capture the wealth of life that’s around him as he paints. He says that “by being aware of the life we share this planet with, we can appreciate it and then conserve it.”
This ethos is one that we share at Wild Oxfordshire as we strive to connect people with nature. We recently used this combined science and art method to deepen understanding at a ‘Wild Arts’ workshop that we helped to deliver in partnership with Eynsham NRN and local artists, Alice Walker and Julia Loken. This initiative is funded by Natural England and aims to combine artistic expression with scientific learning to deepen the connection between people and Nature: NRN Wild Arts (nrn-wildarts.org)
The workshop was a joy to be a part of and was incredibly successful. The children fully engaged with the pond ecosystem and scientific learning. They discovered what makes a healthy pond habitat and the ecosystem it provides for. We also explored adaptations of pond creatures and their transformations.
After the packed afternoon that included dressing up, creating an imaginary pond, campfire songs and superb mimicking of pond creatures (can you swim like a caddisfly?), the children’s understanding was deepened through individual, focussed drawing which contributed to a collage we all made together. By the end of the day, the children were able to recognise and identify species they hadn’t heard of before the workshop.
Many thanks to the year 1&2 class and teachers for making the day so special and joyful. From ragged robin flowers to caddis flies, from bathing bluetit to diving beetle and ram-horned snail, the attention to detail and care is exceptional. It seems we have a few budding ecologists and scientific illustrators at St Peter’s School. Special thanks to Alice for organising this workshop. Her beautiful, pertinent pond scene and welcoming nature inspired the children to draw the amazing wildlife that they’d learned about from the science section. The final artwork represents the possibilities of what St Peter’s pond could look like in years to come. What an inspirational thought that is.
Wild Oxfordshire also collaborates with several local artists, who support us by raising awareness of our work, with some donating a percentage of sales to support us, including Annabelle Pope, Jane Duff, and the Oxford Wildlife Photography and Film-making Society. Not only is the art truly wonderful, it enables us to reach new audiences with our biodiversity message, engaging more people to help nature’s recovery. Consequently, this multifaceted approach– and encouraging the synergies between art and conservation science – is a valuable asset to our nature recovery work.
Therefore, continuing our combined science with art approach, we are excited to announce our upcoming appearance at Asthall Manor’s “On Form” sculpture exhibition from the 29th June to the 3rd of July. In the past, Sian Liwicki kindly hosted a “Sculpture in the Vineyard” event at Bothy Vineyard, and this year we are delighted to be one of the charities Rosie Person from Asthall Manor is supporting. During that week, you’ll be able to hear about our latest work and enjoy a pollinator walk with our very own Community Ecologist, Roselle Chapman, set within the stunning and much-loved Cotswold garden. (https://www.onformsculpture.co.uk/asthall-manor/). We hope to see you there!