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Hacettepe University, Faculty of Fine Arts Ceramics and Glass Department

“...nature creates its own form for its own purposes,

art creates its own form for its own purposes” (Kandinsky, 1993)”


It is seen that throughout the history of humanitythe artist has a place that documents his touch with nature in his own way in the relationship of nature and art. Nature with its form, topography and continuity that creates the earth gives human confidencewith the feeling that it will never end and change. On the other hand, it gives the terrifying signs of a rapid exhaustion as a consequence of the technology and development created by man. This situation, which opens new fields of discourse in art, turns into a new problematic of the artist and continues to be a theme in today’s art. The aim of this study is to discuss new and classical ways of thinking that allow to examine nature as a subject of art in every aspect, and to question the historical and current aspects of the idea of art today beyond inspiration through the nature, art and artist trilogy.

Keywords: Nature,Art, Ecology,Topography.


Considering the writings on art and nature, the works created, the museums, galleries and the accumulation based on this subject as old as human history; the ways, methods and boundaries in which the ideas on nature and art should be treated, may also offer a wide variety of new propositions. As an inexhaustible field of study of art and science, nature can be the center of attention with its renewed and discovered aspect without falling into repetition in today’s apprehension of art. Nature figures as a new dimension of meaning, far beyond being the source of inspiration for art and the artist. Especially the modern approaches and irrepressible technological developments brought about by the twentieth century have led to the discovery of completely different forms of nature at macro and micro levels.With the innovations brought about by time, it is seen that nature, with this broad vision, influences art concretely as well as ideologically. In this paper, it was aimed to focus briefly and comparatively on certain forms of art that comprehend its classical form tothe spatial view of nature which have become the direct subject of art. As long as the philosophical and universal point of view of art is nature, it seems like it will continue to exist.


By general definition, the study of showing shape and features of a land surface with lines on paper to indicate its terrain is called topography. Topography is a field with scientific methods and techniques, but it is also a fact that landforms influence artists who imitate nature. For example, in the 1960s, a group of artists in the United States introduced the world to “Land Art”, which was translated into our language as arazi sanatı. Land Art artists used nature itself as space and material and made giant arrangements by reshaping nature.However, the wearing or disappearing of these works is only about time, just like the work “Homage to El Lissitzky”, which was completed in 1986 by earth artist Lucien den Arend, born in 1943 in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. The work in question, built using land on the side of the highway, was completely destroyed in the early nineties (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Lucien den Arend, “Homage to ElLissitzky”, 1986.

Naturally, Arend knew that his work could not withstand the attrition of nature. However, nature and environment relations started to be discussed in the 1960s and nature was sanctified in the face of technology in order to raise awareness about nature. By opposing the capitalist apprehension, an apprehension that rejects well accepted art venues such as art galleries and museums has dominated. Land Art artists, with an environmental approach, shaped large areas of nature with a specific concept, aimed to re-establish the contact of people with the environment and raise consciousness of nature. Since the works produced with natural materials such as earth, rock, etc. are not available for purchase, this art concept was also a reaction against the exploitation of work of art.

It incorporated art into the process of life and re-established the bonds between society and art through nature. Although artists who repeat these examples of environmental art, in which nature is treated as a means of rebellion, it seems that the effect of nature on the artist as merely a theme will always last. No matter how much nature changes depending on environmental conditions, it always has characteristics for man to discover. Whether the artist transforms the topography created by nature into a rebellion of such magnitude that could be visible from space or renders it on the surface of a sculptural form, as long as the Earth exists the relationship between art and nature seems to continue.

Just like Maya Lin, who has created large-scale installations for exhibitions throughout her career, founding a striking balance between art and architecture. While the landforms continue to be her main source of inspiration, Lin creates a connection between the ideal and the real by building each installation work from a single material.

Figure 2. Maya Lin, Sistematic Landscape”, 2009.

The ones who saw the work named “Systematic Landscape”, which was exhibited in San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts (De Young Museum) between October 25, 2008 and January 18, 2009, were the closest witnesses of Maya Lin’s interest in landforms (Figure 2).This installation was formed by arranging 65 thousand wooden blocks of different heights, 2 x 4 cm thick, and the highest point of the hill that these blocks have formed was reaching out up to 3 meters from the ground.

In the relationship between nature and art, the points that the artist refers to are as important as the language he uses. Despite nature’s destruction and dangers awaiting humanity, wilderness, unseen depths of seas or deserts where there is little diversity of life, can become objects of art that bring people together in a quiet world.Just like the photographs of David Zimmerman, the American photographer born in 1955. Zimmerman lives in the state of New Mexico, where the white sand desert is called the “White Sands National Monument”, and his 2008 “Desert59” is one of a series of photographs taken by the artist from this desert (Figure 3).

Figure 3. David Zimmerman, “Desert 59”. 2008


Deserts are formed in the regions of the Earth that do not receive rain, but in regions that receive very little rainfall, they are formed by the blowing of hot winds that quickly dry the water on the surface or the precipitation leaking from sandy and gritty soil to the depth that the plant roots cannot reach. For this reason, deserts are one of the natural environments with challenging living conditions on earth. The number of plant and animal species that were able to adapt to the desert environment is very small, but the surface of the desert, especially those covered with sand, is almost alive. It takes a very short period of time for the wind to carry, stack and shape a light and fine-grained material such as sand. The image coming in sight after the wind stops blowing is extremely plastic and besides its vital challenges, the deserts have a topography that is visually fascinating.

From the past to the present, the visual and physical values that nature offers us can be the subject of art, the inspiration and material of the artist. The material used in formal expression, which embodies thought in art, does not matter. The interpretation called “inspiration” created by associating natural formations with their form and color generates uniqueness.Here, topographical themes, where the dominant influence of desert imagery is seen, have led to the emergence of a series of ceramic works based on the discipline of “nature’s texture”. The first work inspired by the shapes of the desert dunes is the 2006 “Undulation” (Figure 4). In this study, elements that create contrast to each other such as glazed surface - unglazed surface, white color - natural red color as well as moving and static plans were used.

Figure 4. İlhan Marasalı, “Undulation”, 2006.

As a result of the desert’s being and the relationship of the desert and the wind, the fascinating imagesthat can be summarized as the line, shadow and mystical expression that appear spontaneously in the nature with the effect of light have an endless consistence on ceramic surfaces. Thus, it gives this formation a moment of stop with material and technique.Although it may seem like the disadvantage of this field that some production rules are mandatory, ceramic art has developed an abstract language on its own behalf from these difficulties and imperatives. Glazed surfaces that allow bright and vivid color support this abstract expression (Figure 5).

Here now the desert is just a name, an object of inspiration. Of course, the desert inspired by these works is the dune deserts, which means that countless sand piles together and forms a hill weighing tons. According to a general statement, sand is the raw material of glass. In reality, the sand in question is quartz sand. Based on this metaphor established between glass and sand, the idea of placing glasses shaped by fusion technique on the works has emerged recently (Figure 6). Adhering glass to the ceramic surface is a fundamental problem and a glazed surface is required for this. However, the bonding process to the glazed surface is only possible after firing. Although glass and glaze are homogeneous materials, they differ from each other due to both firing temperatures and surface tensions.

Figure 5. İlhan Marasalı, “Desert”, 2009
Figure 6. İlhan Marasalı, ”Yellow Landscape”, 2018

For this reason, the best solution for fixing these two recalcitrant materials is determined as ultraviolet adhesives. As a result, it is considered that these works, which are presented with ceramic materials and techniques, as well as the subjects and expressions of art in all fields, can be re-diversified in completely different forms when desired; and that not only nature but merely the topography of the desert as part of nature, can be an endless source of inspiration for many other works.


Arend, Lucien den. Home page. 20th February 2020

CLARK, Kenneth. Landscape Into Art. Gibb Press, Utah -USA, 2007.

KANDINSKY, Wassily. Sanatta Ruhsallık Üzerine. (Çev. Gülin Ekinci), Ankara:

Altıkırkbeş Yayınları; 70, 1993.

Lin, Maya. Home page. 20th February 2020

KAGAN, Moissej. Estetik ve Sanat. Ankara: İmge Kitabevi, 2001.

TANSUĞ, Sezer. İnsan ve Sanat. İstanbul: Altın Kitaplar, 1982.

Zimmerman, David. Home page. 20th February 2020


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