Interview: ‘It’s about depicting nature as people see it’

SCENE spoke to Otty Allum, one of the curators of ‘Perceiving Nature’, Norman Rea Gallery’s newest exhibition.

(Image: Charlotte Ambrose)

We started by discussing why there are so many different artistic interpretations of nature, both in early and contemporary artistic movements.   

Otty pointed out that nature “is such a complex idea that there are so many different ways of looking at it and I think we’ve only scratched the surface. There are so many things you can say and so many things you can look at.” 

This exhibition will showcase a broad range of nature-related artworks. When asked why the exhibition specifically focuses on perceptions of nature, rather than on nature as a whole, she said that she wanted to highlight “the different ways that you can see nature”. 

She hopes that this exhibition will encourage us to re-evaluate the way that we look at the natural world. We often perceive it through an anthropocentric (human-based) lens but the exhibition will prompt us to see nature at its most raw, in a primitive and uninhibited state. 

She tells me that only a few of the artworks will depict humans at all. What’s more, the few humans that we do see will be almost “fading into the landscape”, like they’re returning to their natural origins and dissolving into the earth. 

Otty informs me that nature-based artwork was the norm for centuries. “It was about depicting a spiritual connection with nature”. The artwork was often inspired by the connections that humans had with nature but this exhibition plans to do something a bit different…

“It’s not necessarily about human relationships, it’s about depicting nature as people see it”. 

When asked how this exhibition relates to the climate crisis, she responded that “we did have it in mind when we were thinking about this. It wasn’t necessarily our goal to discuss the climate crisis but I do think that we are doing this by drawing attention to nature.”

“I don’t think we really had a goal, we just wanted to see what we could make from it, see what was out there… I don’t think you really see work like this necessarily. I was quite surprised by all the different things we could find.”

She made it clear that there was no difficulty when it came to finding nature-based inspiration for this exhibition. “Nature is all around us; it’s such an important part of being alive” so there were lots of ways to branch out of this theme. 

Otty recalled that one of the biggest difficulties she encountered when organising this exhibition was transporting the larger pieces of art, gesturing to a large wooden chair in the corner. After getting it delivered, one of the committee members had to saw off their shed door to get it to fit inside! This is not something that people usually think of whilst visiting art galleries, but it goes to show the amount of unseen work and dedication that has been used to create this exhibition. 

Otty Allum hopes that, in seeing this exhibition, attendees will “come away thinking a bit differently about nature and about the ways it can be depicted”.  

The Perceiving Nature exhibition opens in the Norman Rea Gallery 31st of January at 6.30 pm.