I’ve recently completed a major overhaul of my main Artist Statement.
For all artists, working in any medium, writing about our work is an essential practice that carries surprising power. The artist statement is usually written after producing the visual works, as a way to explain the motivation and rationale behind the work. Often, collections, series and bodies of work may have their own individual statements. Sometimes a statement will be written in advance, to guide the production of a series.
The process of creating a statement also has incredible informative value toward the production of future work. When we dig deep to find answers, the process of writing our main Artist Statement can be challenging—to say the least. I reckon my current version underwent at least three dozen revisions. Below is one of my later drafts, before I really started the severe edits that resulted in the final version.
(I’m sharing this draft because this gives deep insight into how and why I do what I do, and why I’ve chosen this path in life. Much of this material was cut for the final, concise version; still some people might be interested in more detail…)
As always, thanks for your interest in my work, and please get in touch if you have any questions or there’s anything I can help you with. — Cheers, Nat
Visual beauty and good design influence our happiness and well-being. Beauty can be found everywhere, but it’s not always obvious. Contemplating abstract imagery is beneficial for our minds.
My work is about discovering, sharing and appreciating the captivating, interesting and surprising imagery that can be found in any kind of place, natural or manmade.
In every human life, happiness is important. Each person’s happiness is ultimately their own responsibility—but I want to help through my art.
Beauty and happiness are intimately linked; finding and appreciating beauty is one of the keys to contentment. In every advanced civilization, the appreciation of beauty has been recognized as an important part of living a good life. (The stark contrast between a Roman villa, or a modern luxury hotel, compared with a prison facility are examples of how beauty in our surroundings—or lack thereof—strongly influences our emotional well-being.)
As much as possible, creating our own environments also helps create happiness. Visual art provides a very accessible way to create pleasing spaces in which to live.
Unfortunately, even in the most developed societies, too many people live without beauty in their lives. Art can help change this.
Although beauty can be found all around us, too often, people don’t notice it. Beauty is not always obvious, especially in the built environment. We need to look longer, deeper, beneath the surface, in the cracks. Finding beauty often requires slowing down, paying attention to details and maintaining heightened awareness. These practices, in turn, bring a remarkable richness to life—even within mundane, everyday environments.
I love being outdoors, so that’s most often where I work, using natural light. But I also like to make images at home. And in my dentist’s office, or a train station halfway around the world. Travel, exploration and discovery are essential drivers of my photography.
I started my photographic career in nature and landscape photography, which I still enjoy. Producing great nature photography frequently requires getting out of one’s own comfort zone and enduring physical hardship—often for extended periods of time and sometimes to the point of great personal suffering—in an effort to make remarkable pictures. But just because a photographer suffered to make a picture doesn’t necessarily make it a great image. And although I do make great effort to produce beautiful pictures, I’m not into suffering for my art.
Even so, doing abstract photography is about taking risks with the work. I often make abstract photographs of regular, everyday things—especially those that were not designed to be pretty, becoming aware of potential for beauty in things that at first glance might appear boring or unattractive. I also make many photographs of scenes that appear intentionally designed, yet are not. (Mankind creates things of beauty even without intending to.) The more subtle the beauty, the more special it can be. I do abstract photography because I want to find the sublime within the ordinary. My main goal is to extract that special beauty from apparently unremarkable surroundings; to make it available, accessible, approachable.
When I am traveling, I don’t really ‘create’ images; usually I’d rather find images than construct them outright. I look intently for interesting subjects and scenes and then decide how they should be expressed within the rigid rectangle of the camera frame. And all too often, I can’t capture what I see; no camera could. Technical limitations such as out-of-reach focal lengths or impossible depth of field sometimes result in my not being able to make a particular image, no matter what equipment I may have.
In the studio, I set up still-life scenes to make abstract pictures out of all kinds of objects and materials. In many ways this is more creative than street photography, but the creativity lies more in the setup than in the act of capturing the image.
The influences of chance, chaos and random happenstance are intrinsic to my work. Mindfulness, awareness and consciousness are crucial practices in my process of making my pictures. I aim for minimalism and essentialism, creating order from chaos, extracting the sublime from the mundane, through intention and careful design.
In this way, my work explores and exploits the tension in the slim void that exists between chaos and order. And sometimes it involves tricking the viewer—I love making pictures that appear to be something other than what they are. This process connects me more deeply with the environment, my reality, my existence, and it always raises more questions than it answers.
In creating my images, I am initially drawn to bold, graphic shapes, strong textures and high contrast. Color (or lack of it) is also a key trigger. Solid color juxtaposed with fine texture makes my brain go ‘ping’! I love exploring the way light interacts with different materials and studying the properties of different surfaces.
A photograph may appear to show more than what was actually in the scene, or it can show much less. Photography is a two-dimensional medium and I am interested in exploiting that to its fullest. I often create abstractions with limited depth. Forms are reduced to two-dimensional shapes and merge with one another into a harmony of geometric fields. Textures and patterns interact with color. Symmetry is thrown off-balance by interfering objects.
Above all, I work to make the picture as completely as possible in the camera, maximizing and leveraging the power of the camera’s frame. Most of my finished images only receive minimal post-processing or alteration in the computer. In particular, my ‘found’ images are not at all artificial, made-up or manufactured—just the way things really were as I found them. In this regard, my work might be considered documentary—but I aim to create pure abstraction, and sometimes surrealism, through a hyper-concentrated representation of visual realities which were brought about by random circumstances.
Enjoying art is about emotions, imagination and personal discovery. Abstract art can also evoke pure, primal emotion. It’s a balance of intellect and feeling. Appreciating abstract imagery gives your mind a workout, and this is always a good thing. Abstract art allows the viewer to complete the picture, to make meaning for themselves. What’s not revealed can create a more engaging experience for the viewer. Whereas representational imagery can be literal and everyone may see the same thing, appreciating abstraction challenges the viewer to make their own interpretation, which takes active participation, involvement and some amount of effort. (This may be why some people don’t appreciate abstraction.) Contemplating abstract art can help a person grow intellectually and emotionally. Abstraction is great for people who are imaginative, but maybe not for lazy thinkers or people who prefer to be given all the answers and told all the details of a story.
My art is very much about the experience of the individual. It is designed to evoke a unique personal response from each viewer. I want each person to see something different in the picture, to feel emotions based on their personal experiences and to be reminded of things they have seen before. My abstract art is interactive, interpretive and immersive. Rather than asking “what is it?”, I want you to decide what it means for yourself, to make it your own.
In my life, I most value experiencing new situations, creating new things and helping other people. Through my art, I aspire to live life to the fullest and help others do the same. Ultimately, I make art because it makes me happy. I’m very grateful for this life. But life and reality are mysterious—our world is unbelievably complex and chaotic—so I’m also seeking purpose for my existence. But in the end, there may be no true meaning of life, and I believe art doesn’t always need a clear meaning or message, either. (In the fine arts, this attitude is often considered immature, childish, naive.)
Nonetheless, I’m not trying to make any provocative statements or ask profound questions with the work. I am not asking you to ponder the meaning of life, the implications of death, the influence of religion or sex or the human condition. My pictures aren’t designed to mean anything so deep. If a beautiful picture can inspire you to think and wonder and brings pleasant feelings, that’s enough. And if the idea of beauty for beauty’s sake seems shallow or superficial, also consider that beauty is not always skin deep and things are not always as they appear.
As an artist I have chosen to become a conduit, bridging the gap between the mundane and the sublime, bringing you the special beauty found here and now in our shared existence. Finding and surrounding ourselves with beauty takes effort, but it’s truly worthwhile and beneficial to our well-being. It’s my greatest hope that you will become happier, too, by decorating your walls with my art.