AMMAN – Everyone has a role in raising awareness for climate-change and prompting sustainability. Artists are not the exception to that rule. Environmental artists are encompassing artworks that are in tune with Earth and nature. Some artists have left urban cities and chose natural landscapes like forests and deserts to inaugurate their work. Others preferred to recycle different byproducts of everyday life to produce art which repurposes the immense amounts of waste that now cover our planet. These artworks act as a reminder for the primal and authentic relationship humans had with nature before living in a world filled with technology and unconscious practices. The effect of this unconscious living changes ecosystems and draws humanity more distant from nature.  

This article highlights different artists working in versatile mediums who chose to use their work to advocate for nature and the human effect on it: 

Hans Strand

Born in 1955, Hans Strand is a Swedish landscape photographer. His passion for the natural aesthetic in untamed expressions found in the wilderness drove him to leave his career as a mechanical engineer and devote his life for landscape photography. Inspired by his love for nature and years of experience observing different landscapes, and with a closer look on nature’s miraculous ingredients minutiae, Strand started realizing and documenting the interference of humans on natural landscapes. In his project Man-made, Strand captures various harmful human acts from deforestation to excavations of land. Strand’s photographs highlight the different patterns left on Earth as a result of the modern agricultural practices used to massively strip Earth of its resources.  Strand’s aerial depictions of Earth’s synthetic landscapes leave his viewers contemplative and aware.

Hans Strand, Farmland #5 and Farmland #2, from the Manmade Land series.

Aurora Robson

Born in 1972, Aurora Robson is a Canadian-American multidisciplinary environmental artist. The materials Robson  uses are predominantly plastic debris. In her practice, Robson aims to restrict  the waste going into the ocean and nature by repurposing plastic waste and other debris into aesthetic installations. In 2009, Robson founded Project Vortex, a collective of artists, designers and architects who work extensively with plastic debris. This project unites like-minded artists that repurpose non-biodegradable waste. Project Vortex also allows member artists to share techniques and knowledge through global curriculum and workshops. Robson has been working with plastic debris since 2012 and has been developing different techniques for reworking/recreating waste into art ever since. The techniques and skills she acquired are well-manifested in her art-works that are 100% made out of waste but “can’t be confused with garbage”. Mainly, her art is full of well-incorporated details, homogeneous compositions and multi-hued sequential colors.  Through the open-source curriculum she initiated, she gathers her knowledge and experience in an academic framework to transfer her knowledge to other students, creating a triple effect to spread awareness and more beautiful –once debris- arts. 

Aurora Robson, Ding Dang, welded plastic debris, hardware, LEDs, solar panels, 108”x 108”x 40”, 2017

Tainá Guedes

Tainá Guedes is a Brazilian-born artist based in Berlin. Experienced working with different mediums but is most known for her work with food. She is an eco-conscious artist who believes in the importance of food in our world. Her art is solely pertaining to or features food because she believes it plays a huge role  in today’s crises from poverty to climate change. In 2015, she founded the Food Art Week festival  in Berlin. With this festival, Guedes and contributing artists aim to address issues regarding modern food consumption, production and sustainability through the arts. Food Art Week has annual themes, with the latest covering water scarcity and conservation. Guedes also founded Entretempo Kitchen Gallery which is a space dedicated to experimenting with food as a main medium for making art while also exploring its political and social ramifications. Guedes projects can best be summed up through her perspective of the relationship art and food share, “art is an extension of the kitchen – and food a common base for expressing and sharing thoughts and ideas.” 

Food Art Week 2019 trailer video
 Sample of entretmpo: Table Tools – Ceramics And Food, Ceramics, 2016

Alan Sonfist

Alan Sonfist is a New York-based artist and considered one of the leading artists of the Land art movement, born in 1946. Alan Sonfist strives  to raise awareness for global climate change and promotes sustainability through his multimedia art. A deep understanding of the land and environment is reflected through each of his artwork. The mediums he uses are diverse and so are the topics he deals with. He shines a spotlight on nature with its numerous components and celebrates the relationship between human and nature, which he believes is indivisible. Sonfist portrays the stark contrast between ancient and contemporary relationships humans shared with nature, geology, landforms, and living species.  His work is remarkable for the great effort he dedicates for research. Whether it is a sculpture, collage, photography, or painting, his work usually conveys a well-knitted story about earth based on his findings. This plays a huge role in raising awareness and providing the audience with solid facts infused with lots of humane art. One of his stone sculpture collections is called Earth Monument and consists of natural earth drillings.  These collections reveal the geological life now buried under the concrete of well-known landmarks and it goes from 0-150 feet under the surface level of the cities. 

Alan Sonfist, Earth Monument to Chicago, Natural earth drillings consisting of :1) Sand, and gravel and clay mixture; 2) Very stiff gray clay silt; 3) Fine sand with gray clay; 4) Gravel with gray clay 5) Dense gray clay silt; 6) Hard pan; 7) Green shale; 8) Sandstone; 9) Dolomite with pyrite (a form of limestone), 5.7 × 182.9 × 243.8 cm, 1965–1977, US. Click to learn more.

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworth, born in 1956, is a British sculptor and photographer. Goldsworthy’s  work resembles the primal relationship between nature and humans; the relationship that once existed but now long forgotten in our modern world. Each of his sculptures complements the natural landscape in which he chooses to install his work. He does not use any foreign elements with his sculptures, all the material he uses is organic and from the land where the art will be installed. He allows the natural flow of life’s circle to take place, allowing his art to die and fade gradually into the earth where it came from. His appreciation for the earth drives him to use everything and anything he finds on the land, like stones, rocks, twigs and leaves. 

Andy Goldsworthy, Sapsucker Cairn, Llenroc and other local stone, 198.1 cm x 96.5 cm, USA


John Sabraw

Born in 1968, John Sabraw is an artist, activist, and environmentalist. He does not recycle usual metal and plastic debris, rather he uses oxidized toxic sludge of abandoned coal mines to produce his own iron oxide pigments to create paint. While living in Ohio, John started realizing how polluted Ohio River streams are by the sludge of abandoned coal mines and was inspired  to extract the iron oxide and use it to paint with instead of importing the synthetic one. He partnered with environmental  engineer and professor, Guy Riefler, who also had the same idea and had already been working on it. They neutralize the water and extract the iron oxide after they crystalize it, then they blend it with oil, or acrylic polymers to make paint. They return the clean water to the stream. The hues they produce vary from yellow and brown to red and black. One of the pillar ideas Sabraw seeks to describe, especially through his exhibition “ANTHROTOPOGRAPHIES”, is the “fragility” of mankind’s relationship with nature and “fragile connection between technology, nature, and man”. 

John Sabraw, Black Mirror 1, Coal, Coal Dust, Acrylic Resin On Honeycomb Aluminum Panel. Frame: 24k Gold Leaf, Acrylic Paint On Mostly Local Hardwoods,72×72 Inches, 2019, USA.
John Sabraw,Chroma S5 Hudson River, Hudson Valley Brick Dust, 24k Gold Leaf, Acrylic Resin, Acrylic Paint With Amd Iron Oxides On Aluminum Composite Panel, 36×36 Inches, 2019, USA.

Olafur Eliasson

Born in 1967, Oalfur Eliasson is Danish-Icelandic artist known for incorporating light, water and air into his sculptures and installations to create unique experiences that challenge the status quo of art and its consumption. One of his most notable projects is The Weather Project, an installation that mimicked the appearance of the sun on a foggy London day but inside the grand hall of the Tate. It was a grandiose installation and utilized a mix of natural elements and mirrors to create an illusion that blurred the lines between the concept of inside and outside. Growing aware of the importance of the earth’s resources and the impending dangers to them, Eliasson began creating installations that drew attention to pollution and global warming. He took headlines when he placed 24 large blocks of ice taken from the ocean waters in Greenland in the center of London. Ice Watch London was an installation that drew attention to climate change by literally bringing it to the people. Crowds gathered to touch, smell, and even taste the centuries-old ice — slowly beginning to realize that while they were caught up in fascination a puddle was forming under their feet. Suddenly the earth’s problem becomes a problem for all of us — which is precisely what Eliasson hopes to achieve with his projects.

Olafur Eliasson, Ice Watch, Bankside, outside Tate Modern, London, 2018, Photo by Justin Sutcliffe
Olafur Eliasson, Stardust particle, Stainless steel, glass, motor and spotlight, 1700 × 1700 × 1700 mm, 2018, Tate Modern, London

Sustainable art has different and nuanced perspectives. Some art is to document, some is to recycle, and some is purely organic. Sustainable artists are those artists who chose to consciously serve nature using art as their medium. 

Read more from Nisreen Kakish.
Images courtesy of the artists’ websites.