On Nature – De Naturalia

Thoughts and Statements

by Cornelia Mohr

An Approach to Nature

with many questions, few answers, a long, agreeable list and an emotional concluding sequence.

To keep wild nature as master or mistress in one’s trouser pocket, ready to take it out at any time, or at least at the right time, in order to appear together in public intimacy, to be able to question it and to try and render it more definable – these are some of a sheer infinite number of reasons why nature is one of our preferred themes in the visual arts and indeed in life.

We are all drawn to nature, for we ourselves have sprung from her. In order to understand the enormous cosmos that is nature, it has to be broken down into individual parts, which are then broken down further and further into ever smaller components. These smallest parts are then given names and are assigned attributes, their colours and shapes are interpreted and their behavioural patterns researched and documented. These investigations result in long lists, notes and footnotes which repose in boxes and tins stored in archives and on shelves and are then presented in catalogues and during lecture series.

In these smallest of parts we can recognise ourselves and can begin to comprehend and understand. At the very least, we will now have an idea about things.

We derive a lot of pleasure from this, as we secretly see ourselves as creators, even though these objects, the natural things (or rather all things derived from nature) already exist at the time of our imaginative investigations, with or without names, with or without interpretations – indeed, they have existed long before us. The same way we already exist at the time of our creative exploits and have existed before them.

Whether we are scientists, artists or layabouts, the explanation of nature is always an individual undertaking, for it is based on one’s own emotions and intellect.

(now the list begins:)
Thus, titles are born such as Still Life, Beautiful Butterfly, Shrubbery or Mmmh, Sweet Chestnuts. Also interesting: Cactus, My Darling and Second Foot, Slightly Strange.

Latin assumes an air of importance and asserts itself in titles and in explanations, suggesting a hint of scientific knowledge. Colours serve to enhance the shapes, since hardly anything is black and white in nature. The works’ foregrounds are usually dedicated to the depicted species, while movement and dynamics are derived from the frames and accentuations. The backgrounds are simply exciting, like they usually are. They tell their own stories and have their own protagonists: fish splashing about next to earthworms, caterpillars and insects. Furry creatures are of equal importance to winged or stingy ones and hold their own next to nudes. There is quite some confusion what with all these creatures existing side by side and on top of one another. It often takes arrows and place holders as well as the aforementioned frames to maintain order and to keep together these exuberant displays of nature. Leaves are faithful companions, whether they serve as depictions of beautiful plant types or as practical semaphores. The blue sky must never be omitted, for it creates an optical anchor of calm amidst all this bustle (another nice and appealing term for describing all things natural, at least in the opinion of the author). Apt formulas such as flying = movement shorten long texts and make space for more important things, pasted little pictures, for instance, which unite the cosmos.

Fantastic creatures must feature, as well as shade, light and coatis. Also, human faces, with or without skin, juxtaposed with statues covered in beautifully smooth marble. Skeletons, fish bones and carcasses, feathers and high heels, pink meat and scaly things. Edibles and drinkables, already in the sights of superior things. Types of plants as diverse and imaginative as the ornate writing disappearing in the background. Framed areas and dynamic underlining. An eye for orientation and a large letter as a natural initial. What a long and agreeable list!

Now one might ask what nature herself thinks about these man-made creative appendages. Significantly older and more experienced, she is apparently far beyond these details of human efforts and is probably able to judge everything from a distance.

Does nature like our efforts? Is she happy to be pasted onto sheets with charm and wit, furnished with designations and indicating arrows? Is she flattered to be the main protagonist in the interplay of paper, colour and pen? Does it accommodate her nature to be scribbled, pricked and skewered in order to be rendered definable? Does she feel honoured to be residing as scientific treaties between book covers in libraries? Or is she simply indifferent to it all?

These questions naturally provide excellent material for continuous artistic creation, and that is probably why these questions exist in the first place – they are their own proof, as it were:

denn ihre nicht eindeutige Beantwortbarkeit liefert den Individuen die Vollmacht weiter werkeln zu dürfen, womit auch immer sie sich gerade beschäftigen. Diese Beschäftigung, Auseinandersetzung als Möglichkeit einer Antwort sozusagen, dient dem Menschen als Schutz vor der Unendlichkeit des Nichtverstehens – zusätzlich natürlich auch begründet auf der Eitelkeit des Menschen, sich selbst und seine Umwelt verewigen zu wollen, ob in Farbe oder Schrift. (oder in bescheidenen Texten wie diesem zum Beispiel).

The fact that they cannot be answered unequivocally gives individuals the authority to keep on working on whatever it is that they may be working on. This work is an attempt at answering these questions in order to protect us from the infinity of ignorance. It also arises out of our vanity of wishing to immortalise ourselves and our surroundings, whether in pictures or in writing (or in humble texts such as this one).

The small, natural things help artists, for they can understand them, or at least they think they do. And should they fail to understand them, they can always interpret them.

The small, natural things are on the same level as human beings, they are friends in the infinite cosmos and partners in the self-explanatory game of existence.

They keep us company in everyday life and accompany us with gentle reticence as affectionate details.

They are protagonists and part of artistic heights, they can be found in iridescent delusions of grandeur and safeguard the casualness of creativity.

The small, natural things are simply great.

Cornelia Mohr, 2013

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De Naturalia – Thoughts and Statements