Peter Macdonald’s work has always been concerned with the relationship between humans and their natural environment. In an age when that is seen as an uneasy relationship he explores the boundaries of what can be considered ‘natural’ in our behaviour, particularly in the context of how we transform the landscape and our environment using modern technology. In particular his drawings have used 3D digital modelling techniques to create new, artificial landscapes, scenes from proposed Utopian worlds, and asked whether they can be considered as natural when set against the conventional history of landscape art. When does the artifice start having to justify itself, in a way that the ‘natural’ does not?
In a new body of work he focuses in on the stuff of the landscape, its geology, creating imagined gems and minerals and presenting them as examples of possible formations. The process of creating these works again involves the use of 3D modelling to layout the structure of these proposed specimens, and introduces the hand of software in the use of guided but randomly seeded algorithms. This represents an erosion of the artists authorial claim, which is however clawed back when he translates the digitised prototypes back onto paper using more traditional techniques, ink and gouache. The push and pull between artist and machine, between the real and the imagined is, for him, analogous with our wavering relationship with the natural world. Where we place ourselves, as master or servant, or whether there is even a meaningful thing called Nature that we could have a relationship with, seems to him to be an important question to be asked in a time when our need for the earth’s resources conflicts with our desires as modern people.
In parallel with his contemplations about our place in the world these works also speak of a deep appreciation for the forms of the natural world which, in the case of rocks and mineralogy can be traced back to his days collecting fossils whilst visiting the North York Moors as a child. And it is ultimately this appreciation which provides a way forward from the quandary of environmental priorities; if you want to keep enjoying it, you better look after it. Thus his work in this show both celebrates the formal beauty of the natural world whilst also asking some difficult questions.
Peter Macdonald works as an artist and a programmer in Cambridge. He has taken part in many exhibitions in the U.K and abroad and his work is held in many private and public collections.
Exhibition Viewing Times - Tues 11am-3pm / Weds - Fri 10am-3pm / Sunday 11am-3pm / Closed Mon & Sat