Went it seemed like the entire world shut down because of COVID-19, and we were ordered into lockdown, we could no longer be out and about in the world, gather – or even see our friends and families. As time passed, people began to absorb the implications the pandemic was having on their lives and our responses ranged from loss and mourning, loneliness, and restlessness to introspection, creativity, and reinvention. Meanwhile, the natural world began to tap our shoulders. The animals returned to our cities, birds had took back the skies, and all sort of hidden gems were no longer obscured by our pollution.
My own relationship with nature is one of push and pull. I witness in nature, the miracle and fragility of my own fleeting life force mirrored back to me. This inspires awe and intensifies my awareness of being alive, of being a conscious individual within a larger interconnected whole yet understanding that this “whole” remains elusive. My mind battles to rationalize my observations and impressions of an intelligent force that seems equally purposeful and chaotic, innocent and cruel, physical and divine.
This relationship has held me rapt and has been at the heart of why I make art. For over 20 years, I have incorporated moss (both living and dried), pine needles and other organic materials into sculptures, constructions and large-scale installations that explore the living energy of the natural world. It is while being in nature that I find myself closest to my art. As I carefully and respectfully collect mosses and needles, the seductiveness of vibrant colours and complex textures occasionally gives way to revulsion as I realize how much insect life they carry back to my studio. While I am made ecstatic by the beauty of life, I am terrified of stumbling upon traces of death.
But now, with the pandemic, the possibility of death has come very much to the foreground where, just breathing in public feels dangerous. Although usually a citizen of the world, I am currently fortunate to be living in the country, with the expanse of Georgian Bay across the road and surrounded by deep forests. Outside of my miniscule bubble, I am essentially alone here and the deafening silence has force me to look further inward.
My new work has become intimate in scale – small wall constructions made with pine needles. I sort, order and place my pine needles with Baroque intention. They are painstakingly laborious to make – a process that is contemplatively ritualistic but it is now the one area where I feel a sense of control and I am able to manifest love in a physical way.
The forest seems ever more vibrant now because when the world went silent, Mother Nature returned to her dance.
Christian Bernard Singer
Pine needles and mixed media on wood
18” x 18” x 5”
Photo Credit: Richard Fogarty