Art and nature – how they interact, how they benefit wellbeing together and apart – are integral to my Medley arts for wellbeing initiative. So when I heard about Nature In Art, an art gallery, I obviously wanted to learn more. Located 2 miles outside Gloucester, this is none other than the world’s first art gallery entirely dedicated to depictions of the natural world in the fine, decorative and applied arts.
As such, Nature In Art has the scope to demonstrate just how strongly nature has inspired painters and so many other creatives over the years. There are temporary and touring exhibitions, like the Wildlife Photographer of the Year show opening on 7 February 2023, There are events, and opportunities to see present-day artists at work, and chances for young people to get involved. And then there’s the gallery’s permanent collection, which continues to grow. This features fine, decorative and applied arts from 60 different countries, produced across 1,500 years by some 600 artists and makers. There are paintings, yes, but also ceramics, textiles, sculptures and mosaics to name but some. Nature In Art is run by a charity which began in 1982 and opened the gallery’s doors for the first time in 1988. It has no ongoing or guaranteed funding, so that running events and welcoming the public are vital. The gallery is housed in a Georgian mansion, Wallworth Hall, a scenic setting which fits a gallery celebrating nature and its beauties.
As someone who particularly enjoys drawing and painting nature (birds, animals, plants) I was struck by just how many different media and styles feature in the collection. I like trying different media (graphite, colour pens and pencils, paints) – but this takes variety to another level. Abstract and near-abstract art is also present. I am far more familiar with figurative art, but am enjoying experimenting with abstract now as well – so the idea of focusing abstract art on specific nature subjects seems a new possibility. That’s partly why I feel art galleries can so enrich our lives – not only as somewhere to see and wonder at great art, but also to give us new stimulus and ideas to enjoy trying ourselves. Creativity feeds on creativity.
As I combine art and nature wherever possible in my wellbeing work, I think about how and why they enrich each other for greater impact. Art really can enhance the way we encounter nature. Looking at some of the artworks on the Nature In Art website made me think again about the creatures they portray. Some are realist in style, showing a far closer view of a bird, say, than I would have in nature. Others might be surreal, like one painting of birds and bats flying which really highlights the wonder of flight. These all open up new experiences of nature.
Have a look at videos and virtual tours at https://natureinart.org.uk And share what you think in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002