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Episode 14. Talking Landscapes Through Art

Ellis O'Connor is a contemporary landscape artist based in Scotland. Ellis is called to interpret the landscape that she immerses herself in, she sits within it and even uses natures materials to create her work.

In our conversation we talk about the almost magical connection you can feel with nature when you spend time with it. The elements, tides, sun, moon, animals, plants all reach out and when you sit with yourself quietly in nature we can start to listen to what it has to say. Sometimes it feels that modern day living has almost completely removed us from nature and there seems to be a push back against that coming. We can see it with many artists, writers and activists that are feeling empowered to help find that connection again, because it's so important on many levels.

Robert MacFarlane, Agnes Denes, Andy Goldsworthy, Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Nan Shepherd are just a few that come to mind that use art, music and poetry to express natures language.

"We walk on this thin crust above this raging space of life and matter in all its vibrancy and fury, and we know nothing of it.” Robert MacFarlane.

Ellis talks about having a desire to spend time in harsh, more rural places where the environment really lets you know who's boss. It's something that we have often talked about because we live in the North West of Scotland, we feel almost proud to survive the wild winds, torrential rain and dreich winters. It instills a kind of "fight" inside of you that's hard to put into words, but it's not a negative (or should we say, it's not always a negative). That "fight" can make you feel so alive! It works on the same idea as cold water swimming through winter, if you make yourself go in for a dip no matter what the weather it makes you feel so grounded and present, at times helping to alleviate stress or anxiety.

"I think it's really important for humans to feel small and insignificant now and then. It reminds us that nature and the earth is in control."

Ellis O'Connor - Interview for BBC The Loop

Nature has a way of passing it's message on when you spend time in it and Ellis found that through her art and interpretation of the more extreme northern landscapes it's an alternative way to get a Climate Change message across. People can often feel overwhelmed by numbers and statistics, however, art has the ability to connect with people emotionally. It really resonates with us when Ellis talks about the brutal weather of more remote Northern places, and how it can serve as a reminder to be more respectful of nature.

"When a place runs out of visuals and a language to describe the landscape, then it's then opened up to destruction and disregard."

Ellis O'Connor - Interview for BBC The Loop

As humans we understand the importance that nature plays in our lives, we know it feels good to spend time outside, in the sea or with our hands in the mud. The bit that we maybe have lost is the intuition, the "knowing" and hearing what our landscapes are tellings us. It's not just nice to spend time in nature, it is necessary to spend time in nature for our survival.


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