Art and nature: from Scotland to India

Edinburgh event and exhibition explores the link between culture and the natural environment

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What role do artists have in addressing the major environmental issues of our time? Renowned Indian artist and conservationist Ravi Agarwal was joined by our Sandwood and Quinag manager Don O’Driscoll and Norman Shaw, an artist and academic from Lewis, on the panel of a landmark event at the Edinburgh Printmakers to celebrate the connection between nature and culture.

‘The Art of Inhabiting Nature' discussion – part of the Edinburgh Art Festival – also marked the opening of a new exhibition by Ravi – Nàdar/Prakriti – supported by the John Muir Trust.

The exhibition – which is on display at Edinburgh Printmakers until 20 October – grew out of research conducted by Ravi in the Scottish Highlands in the summer of 2017, which included visits to Trust properties and discussions with staff members.

Ravi's artwork explores the pressures upon nature in Scotland and India and the challenges of rewilding in both countries. Its title combines the Gaelic and Sanskrit words for nature – Nàdar and Prakriti respectively.

Opening the 'Art of Inhabiting Nature' event on Saturday 28 July, Norman Shaw highlighted the entanglement of people and nature within Scotland’s landscape over many millennia. Ancient structures – such as the Callinish standing stones on Lewis and the Cailleach stones located deep in Glen Lyon – were the focus of ancient rituals which carry on to this day to mark the beginning and end of summer.

Don O’Driscoll told the event that, although a lecture theatre was not his natural habitat, he was honoured to be invited to the event at the request of Ravi. His descriptions of his day-to-day work looking after Sandwood and Quinag, and his heartfelt plea for people to be reconnected with nature, was warmly received by the audience.

Ravi Agarwal spoke of his own background braving the hot winds of Rajasthan in the Great Indian Desert and his 25 years as a campaigning conservationist, which began when he helped to save an 8000ha forest in New Delhi that was under threat of destruction by developers.

Ravi explained that the experience changed his life and led him to explore the loss of nature across India and the wider world more deeply. He argued that we have now reached the moment of reckoning. Ravi’s art is devoted to helping bring about a fundamental rethink of the relationship between humankind and the natural world, both locally and globally.  

  • Nàdar/Prakriti is supported by Creative Scotland and the British Council in partnership with the John Muir Trust and Creative Carbon Scotland. It is on at Edinburgh Printmakers until 20 October 2018. Find out more.