The art world has always been ahead of its time, oftentimes anticipating social movements. Many issues have been brought to the forefront of politics through the actions of influential and socially-conscious artists. Unsurprisingly, environmentalism is no exception! Discover which ecological artists have been most invested in protecting the environment with Artsper.
1. Lorenzo Quinn
The Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn is certainly one of the most environmentally-conscious and invested artists, and received significant media attention for his work titled Support. Exhibited during the 2017 Venice Biennale, this piece of art wasn’t shown amid the others, but rather could be found in the Floating City’s central lane of transportation: the Grand Canal. Two child-like yet huge hands emerge from the water, to support the Ca’ Sagredo hotel. A resounding message warning against the threat of climate change. The ancient foundations on which Venice is built are constantly threatened by the rise in sea levels and the accumulated pollution of tourist boats. With his series Forces of Nature, Lorenzo Quinn remains in the public eye and continues to call attention to these issues.
2. Nancy Holt
A major figure in Land Art, Nancy Holt uses natural elements for her compelling creations. The American artist has famously punctuated the desert of Utah with her Sun Tunnels. These cylindrical shapes are then perforated to produce a constellation-like when sun rays pass through. The installation creates ephemeral moments by playing with perspective and perception. Holt aims to guide her viewer, inspiring them to feel connected to their environment, to the cosmos and to nature in general. This is how, in her own way, Nancy Holt expresses her commitment to the environment.
3. Olafur Eliasson
When discussing committed ecological artists, it never takes too long for Olafur Eliasson’s name to come up. At the center of the environmental art movement, his artwork often contains powerful messages. Such is the case of his piece Ice Watch from 2015, shown at the COP-21 to warn against the melting ice caps. For this art installation, Eliasson transported blocks of floating ice from Greenland to European capitals, such as London or Paris. The artist’s most recognized work, however, remains The Weather Project (2003). This monumental installation at London’s Tate Gallery created an uncommon, almost dream-like experience for the viewer. The goal of these works is always to remind us of the ecology’s role and the impending threat of climate change.
Leading figure of street art and anti-establishment movements, Banksy has engaged with several social issues: peace, world hunger, and of course environmentalism. Across his works, the British artist often uses images of animals, such as rats or monkeys, personifying them with human behaviors. Several graffitis have addressed the environment directly by prominently featuring bears, rats or kids.
5. Angeles Peña
Argentinian-born artist Angeles Peña uses photography to capture the poetry of nature, revisiting its clichés. The cold and menacing landscapes found in her images are elevated, reaching a majestic dimension. Peña’s series of photographs spanns across the Pacific Ocean, icelandic glaciers and parts of Patagonia. The series seeks to show how the exterior facade of these incredible landscapes can reveal a deeper, more fundamental truth. Today, her work stands as a testament for the growing concern about climate change. Alongside other ecological artists Frank Seguin and Cheng Chang Wu, Angeles Peña now stands as part of a long line of artist photographers committed to ecology.
6. Antony Gormley
The British artist is well known for his stance vis-a-vis the environment and his continuous efforts to defend it. In a 2019 interview with the Sunday Times, he spoke out against the art world’s CO2 emissions, specifically calling out art fairs. This is neither the first or the last time Antony Gormley has addressed uncomfortable subjects, however. In 2015, the artist revealed Connection, an artwork that warns against climate change. The image shows a human-like figure standing before a glowing background, made from the Guardian’s March 7th, 2015 issue. This atypical collaboration between artist and media outlet afforded Antony Gormley a great deal of publicity, allowing him to truly get his message across.
7. Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth’s body of work leaves a great deal of room for interpretation, seeing as her own commentary and interviews are few and far between. There is one thing we can know for sure, and that is her chosen subject matter: the human figure. By evoking the humanity that inhibits us all, she also alludes to the landscape and the environment. In her opinion both are inherently involved in the process of sculpting. The fact that most of her work dates back to the beginning of the 20th century shows to what extent she was ahead of her time. To better understand the environmental nature of Babara Hepworth’s works, one must look to the phenomenology of perception. Initially a philosophical inquiry proposed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, this study of phenomena as perceived by human beings can serve to elucidate Hepworth’s art.
8. Jérémy Gobé
Coral is the primary focus of ecological artist Jérémy Gobé’s works. His project titled Corail Artefact bears witness to the urgency of rescuing reefs and other underwater biosystems. This French artist has engaged with environmental issues for a long time, studying the coral’s structure and formation. He aims to reproduce what he observes through his artistic mediums of choice, namely, painting, drawing and sculpture. In 2017, he noticed that the heart lace stitch method was similar to coral’s own structure. This was the starting point for his ecologically-inspired project, available on Artsper.
Established or emerging, these environmental artists each offer us a different perspective, shaped by their specific issues and chosen mediums. However, as we can see in their work, they all share the same goal: raising awareness about the environment and protecting our planet. Whether it be animals, coral reefs or nature in general, each of these artists express a distinct desire to preserve the planet we call home. Want to discover more committed ecological artists? They’re waiting for you on Artsper.