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John Wolseley: Art and Nature

Life in oceans, rivers and seas

“It is a funny way of putting it, how nature works, it is almost like I am talking about some kind of complicated machine”.

John Wolseley, Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

November 23, 2022

For Wolseley the history of the earth is inscribed in the frond of a fern, seeds, pollen, spores, insects, butterflies, birds are fine grained measures of the state of the world and they bear witness to its essential unity. Intimate space and cosmic space are two facets of a single reality, one is the mirror of the other.

John Wolseley

John Wolseley arrived in Australia in 1976 from England. Since that time, John has made an extraordinary contribution to the culture and science of his new home, reporting on the nature of Australia through his installations and large scale works on paper.

How nature works

“My intention is to show how these rafts of different species weave in and out of one another, across the surface of my painting, rather as a passage of a symphony changes key and mood”.

In this case and in this painting, it is the plants and organisms, the fish and insects of a tropical creek. Each small creature’s life world interwoven to produce an ecosystem vibrating with life.

“I go to a place and I find some way of entering into it and then what I find there is a new way in which to describe it in terms of drawing and painting. There are different kinds of systems in which you can draw it. In a magical way you can then really start to understand how the place works”.

It is a funny way of putting it, how nature works, it is almost like I am talking about some kind of complicated machine. The really important thing for me, now that ecosystems are in collapse, the zeitgeist of any landscape artist, is that this is the most important subject we have to look at. This is the most important thing.

I think it all started in my childhood, my mother died young and I went off into the wilds around this farm, the hills and the meadows and the forests in the west of England on the edge of Exmoor.

"I sort of learnt to work within nature where I was this funny little boy who almost became a lizard or a fox".

That is probably how it started and then somehow, I slowly realised that the rest of the world was becoming an artificial construct in a way. When I went to art school people were no longer looking at the way we exist within the world, within nature. I then realised that was going to be my life’s journey to try and make art that was about how we connect.