Being in the land: a sculptural investigation of ecology
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This doctoral research addresses the question: How may sculpture be generated as a result of a reciprocal relationship with the natural environment? Through an integrated theoretical and practical framework, the sculptures of this doctoral enquiry represent new ways of understanding landscape in art. Founded on the principles of ecology, these sculptures are models for engaged and informed interaction with the natural environment, for artists as well as for the layman. This thesis consists of four parts. The first part of the submission comprises documentation of the exhibition that embodies the contribution to knowledge and understanding. The works exhibited are also documented and then discussed extensively in the final chapter of this thesis. The second part of the submission is the reflective analysis of the theoretical and historical context of research, which is say the field of enquiry. The critical consideration of this field of enquiry begins with a discussion of the cultural, historical, scientific and experiential elements that constitute Western conceptualizations of and relations to the land and thus to the representation of landscape. As such, I discuss landscape theory and phenomenology as frameworks for understanding and gaining insight into this complex relationship. This section then critically considers the art historical field of enquiry, specifically the Western tradition of the representation of landscape with regard to landscape painting, Land Art, and contemporary Environmental Art. Here, I align the evolution of the representation of landscape with humanity's evolving relationship to the natural environment. The third part of the submission, the critical review of the process of the research, describes and evaluates the methods and methodology of the past three years of this research project. I explore the progression and development of my artistic practice during this time through nine works of art. The works include Extended Life, Moving Moss Stones, A Presentation of the Landscape, The Microscopic Photograph Series, The Culture of Paper, A Nest of Hazel, An Experience of Hazel, The Collaborations with Blue Tits and Great Tits, and The Collaborations with the Irish Black Honeybee. Akin to the parallel evolutions of Western landscape representation and humanity's relationship to the natural environment, my sculptures demonstrate the evolution of my relationship to the land of the Burren in County Clare, Ireland. In the final chapter, I discuss in detail the sculptures that have been generated from my research question. Finally, the fourth part of this submission is a five hundred-word summary of my contribution to knowledge and understanding. It discusses the ways in which my ecological sculptures are a contribution not only to the field of Environmental Art, but also to the field of the representation of landscape, as they and their innovative means of production provide new ways of understanding of humanity's relationship to the natural environment.