Dear Nature

30th Mar · Dawn Hawkins

Exploring John Newling’s understanding of the natural world and his environmental proposition

John Newling is a Nottingham based artist who is a pioneer of public art with a social purpose.

His works explore the natural world and the social and economic systems of society. John is interested in the strange and unfathomable ways in which we as human beings ascribe value. He questions people about what makes them happy, or what unexplained mysteries have occurred in their lives, and frequently uncovers unexpected responses.

2  Newling Preston Mmp

Over the past few years, John has focused on the relationship between human beings and nature. By growing, tending and observing the properties of particular species, including the Miracle Tree (Moringa Olifeira), John develops deep and personal knowledge of how nature works and how human beings imagine nature within their own experiences.

In a recent email on 27 March 2020, John remarked, ”It is Spring, the season that seems to save us, and I am spending hours in our garden just looking”.

3  Cabbage Walking Sticks 2 Copy

John draws on art movements such as Conceptual Art, Land Art and Arte Povera that occurred during the 1960s. These movements opened art up to issues of public life and placed emphasis on the concept, process and site of the work, alongside material and aesthetic properties.

John Newling first visited the Barn in October 2013 when he attended the closing discussion of the Lavender project, developed by Dr Helen Smith as part of her doctoral study in which the Barn acted as a collaborative organisation.

John subsequently became the Barn’s first artist-in-residence (2015-17), making a number of visits to Banchory where he created several new works in response to the site and its interest groups. He presented his work on a number of occasions to diverse groups including the Third Stage Group and others.

4  Last Island A Becoming Geology 2015

The Last Islands

The Last Islands

5A Soil Lab 2017 In Gallery

5B Soil Lab 2017 In Forest

6 Blackberry Picking 2 9 2013

John’s work in Banchory has included an exhibition The Map Room of the Last Islands (2015), a soil lab in which he created hand-made bowls from soil (2016) and the poem Be Kind, Be Needed, Be Loved (2017) which is installed on the garden wall adjacent to the Barn car park. Other works including the three Blackberry Picking Drawings (2015) and Mine, a sculpture of the Golden Calf, are now in the Barn’s permanent collection.

Although John’s residency at the Barn ended in 2017, we retain a close relationship and we have recently contributed a chapter for a new book about John’s ecological works. This is due to be published by Beam Editions in May. The book will include John’s recent works which have just been exhibited at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.

The current Ikon Exhibition was closed by the Coronavirus pandemic two weeks after it opened. However, you can read a review of the exhibition here and see a video of the exhibition here