• Jet van Groningen

THE ART OF NATURE / THE NATURE OF ART


Some years ago, I wrote three pieces about art - I decided to share them because they all have something to do with bodies and blood. Rough edged, because I do not like editing.


From: African Canvas - Margaret Courtney Clarke


Rocking my hammock, I am oscillating my thoughts on art. What is art? Is it the trembling of the trees before me, rustling their leaves while the wind takes hold of their branches? Is it my hands braiding red chords for a forthcoming ceremony? Is it the words in my head that cannot stop weaving stories? Is it Van Gogh who was inspired by the colors and lines of Japanese art? My reflection broadens itself as I think back to a recent visit to my grandmother and how that day was filled with words about aesthetics.


On her wall there are four steeples, wooden ornaments that used to be placed on the middle of doors of farms in the East of Holland. Now they are hanging silently above the dining table – holding witness to a past that is long forgotten but not by her. Not by my grandmother who collects her memories like keepsakes – for those grey days with no silver linings around the clouds. She tells me about the farms that used to have those marvellously shaped steeples – moon, suncross, tree of life, corn, swan. All of those symbols were meant to protect as well as bless the house it ornamented – bearing witness to the fears of natural forces, born in nescience.


On her table a golden tray with pink, purple and white shells from the shores of her homeland Indonesia. Carved by nature, grown by animals, picked up by humans, placed in specific designs by my oma. An aesthetic frame around memories of a place that meant home, that meant mother, that meant father, that meant departure, that meant deep dark and longforgotten answers to questions ingrained and engulfed by generations.


On that same table the book African Canvas – that tells the story of the architecture and wall paintings of women from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mauritiana and Mali. The shapes they put on their houses, as a dignified way of transforming everything around them in a lust for the eye. A book bought by my grandmother in her sixties, when she taught young children about the art of handcrafting. Learning them to look around them and to find beauty in everything they saw, watched, eyed, made, formed and touched. Just like my grandmother who came in Holland during the war, and who found comfort in the waving trees and the music of a submerged neighbour, when there was no place for her anymore on her mothers lap.


On her wardrobe a combination of beautiful dresses. Pale pink, tie-dye purple, deep emerald greens. Sharply cut, rich in fabric, never frivolous. I can remember her wearing some of them already for twenty or thirty years: the way her folded brown skin lets itself envelop by those, the way she touches the cotton and the linen and the silk lovingly, the way she washes and irons them with great care. On her chair a combination of batik cutouts. Old dresses from her mother torn apart, to replace in new patterns – colorful cushions and patchwork blankets. Gifts to be given to them who still pay her visits, who talk to her about politics, nature, history and art.


Art and where to lay its emphasis? Is it as I learned in preschool, middleschool and highschool – is art something that is created by someone with an outstanding talent to recreate the outside world in new ways? Is it as I learned in University - is art something that is created by someone who reshapes outworn ways of thinking?


But is the most touching form of art, not the art that is created for the pure pleasure of aesthetics? Is it in the forms of nature that we try to recreate? Is it in the following of our thoughts with our pencils to reshape all the things around us? Is art a trying to connect humanbuild objects, interiors, robes with the Mother Earth that we all come forth from? Is it in the carving of the wood, the singing of the songs and the telling of the stories – that we create siblings of the trees, children of the sun? Is it in those forms of art at last that we find the most comfort – in the art forms that make us remember that the world is not only a dark desert with no good women and men? Can there be art without nature, and can there be nature without art?



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