A trip to environment – a human perspective ?!

Having booked me onto the ‘Art & Environment’ weekend April 28th/29th with Melissa and Dan, I was not really sure what to expel or what to get out if it. I guess one thought was to get after my digital-material-screen paintings a fresh and different perspective on things. We do have have a larger size garden where we live, that actually inspired me for the first exercise with OCA / drawing 1 / temporary drawings: to draw with dry fallen tree leaves.

Anyhow, first day was quite South of London, at Charles Darwin, and I felt after a rail trip of 3 hours quite impressed for being in such a historical place. I do think it has to do with how I relate to things, more phenomenological and kinesthetically. With a felt sense of place where I can ‘organically absorb’ it alongside my mental images of a deceased person who made a big impact on humanities, and the way we relate to ‘nature’ (put the word in brackets as humans beings are nature as well, despite some conceptions of not). I liked the idea that Darwin set out at the age of 21 on the Beagle by suggestion and to company the captain, certainly not to find and discover new theories (not-knowing but being curious).

The second day closer to London at the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI). Another marvellous historical site, building with character. And with an impressive Herbarium collection (47511 species in 175 strong metal archive boxes). Another felt sense, and a sense of belonging as a group in a place of creative conditions as research place: a kitchen, a library, a study room, a garden. We talked about space and place, and that setting good conditions can be inspirational and open up. In that sense, I liked Darwin’s ‘sand walk’ or ‘thinking walk’: a path at the periphery of the property, protected from the outside, to walk, every day, to think, five days a week, an iteration that is important in art practice as an iterative cycle of inspiration, making, and reflection (as also shared by Matt White by his research cycle during our last RG Europe virtual talk).

The venue was excellent to have an entire house at our disposal (Sundays the institute is closed) feels very luxurious. Nevertheless, to move and discover, to sit down and talk and reflect (or to have lunch together), and to repeat all of this.


Dan and Melissa provided us not only with a doc package that one could do in any place of the world and in one’s close environment. They also gave us short 5min exercises (see also Instagram @startercultureuk) to respond in any way that resonates. 

  1. Find and use an alternative tool
  2. Observe growth
  3. Observe and record edges
  4. From a plant’s point of view— What does the plant see, feel, think?
  5. Find a way to attune yourself to that which wants to reveal itself (in what you’ve done)

Some of my outcome of these exercises and further exploration, some useful for my project (guess that one is a tuned to a personal meaningful project all things gravitate towards this and are seen in that context)

=> Found plants, colors, patches, mud for edges, small varities (we were encouraged and allowed to pick small specimens from the garden). To think of using the colors, Melissa mentioned chromotography to extract the colorant.

.. and interaction with a plant from the herbarium – a daisy from 1835. A verbal response


 ‘To attune myself to that which wants to reveal itself’ – a slow motion recorded performance with soil (thanks to Dan for being the camera-man):

Video (0:59 min, with audio)

Last not least we had time to look deeper at what interested us. To  look at the collected small specimens through the microscope, and to record this viewing with my phone cam:

=> shape reminds of the human eye, close view and still a remote sense of space. At times a sense of cosmic scale, planets. A juxtaposition of both extremes. I feel it could inform my parallel project on MRI and the medical gaze. A different device, but the same gaze. The microscope images of nature do have an aesthetic appeal, same as MRI images?

Learnings and take-always:

  • Walking as practice, a routine as iteration
  • Setting of ‘good’ conditions for creativity and as art practice: to fertilize, to plant a seed, to let it grow
  • Cross semination of ideas, one doesn’t know what might trigger work
  • Short time exercises help to avoid overthinking and just make, reflection afterwards
  • Color from plants, a source of inspiration
  • Microscope : another view in medical gaze informing my parallel project
  • Text: a verbal response, a title? embedded in a painting?
  • Edge and color, fragments and dislocation, not only in nature but also quite relevant for my coursework
  • Feeling inspired and re-energised to move on


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  • May 1,2019 at 12:29 PM

    I live almost round the corner to the house where Darwin was born, in the town where he started his journey to join the Beagle, and I often walk along the river bank where he walked as a child, just below the family house. So, a very direct connection to things in your study day for me.

    • Stefan
      May 1,2019 at 8:39 PM

      I didn‘t know that – did it inform your work as well? Or is it more of a sense thing – sharing a place and letting it soak? I find it fascinating how physical places do have such an impact

  • May 1,2019 at 7:01 AM

    wonderful post. I esp. note Darwin as ‘curious’, this is the notion that I think one should cultivate in arts. Great to hear about your feeling tuned to a personal meaningful project which makes all things gravitate towards this – I often feel the same (and have thought that it is fraudulent somehow…. but maybe this is how things work and gets more flesh – great to see this aspect mirrored). I absolutely love the hearth ‘beat’ in the sand video – this has the potential for more? Do you know Herman de Vries (old lovely hippie) who works with soils from around the world (as pigments on flat surface) but the personality of soils might yield different noise/sound and beats? exciting. I am currently ‘neerding’ about the early moon research/drawing (for my vital tribe – moon trend) so of course I see moon landscapes in you microscope. 🙂

    • Stefan
      May 1,2019 at 7:56 AM

      Interesting to notice that the video piece resonates so much . It – and especially the sound – resonates strongly with participants as well. Thus, I am excited to work now with music student Vicky on the project, drones and more. And yes, curious is what children are often more openly – experiences it with my interactive pieces . Thanks for the de Vries , strange that I didn’t know him till now (although he was at Venice Biennal 2015 for the Netherlands ..) besides curiosity it might be also that set of conditions (incl mental) . Guess with your early moon it could move on into other exciting directions. Had yesterday my tutorial and one topic was concluding and moving on – a point of when to stop

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