As we approach France's moment to host the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in 2015, artists have not waited for the politicians to realise that the future of humanity is at stake. Since the 1970s, and with land art specifically, artists have developed practices that address environmental and ecological issues and have used their aesthetic approaches to raise public awareness about ways to protect and restore nature. The landscape has become a medium for artists and, with their help, it makes environmental dysfunction perceivable.
Nils Udo is one of these artists, but he chooses to reveal nature's hidden beauty rather than sending alarming messages. He applies a subtle, discreet treatment to stones and vegetable debris: petals, leaves, twigs arranged into nests that are as cosy as they are pretty, a tiny swing chair delicately crafted from a black locust leaf, a pattern of grass or flowers... He elevates every element in finely wrought arrangements. Refusing to leave any trace of human presence, he incorporates the natural processes that will lead to the destruction of these ephemeral works. Then he photographs these abstract compositions designed by nature and revealed by the artist. With Nils Udo, the artwork itself has a life. It is born, grows, ages and dies. It is a part of nature; it is subject to its laws. It is with nature that he expresses himself. His works have never had a destructive effect. The deterioration may take anywhere from a few seconds to several years: ice sculptures that last but a season, sand on a beach that disappears at high tide, or constructions made of plants, flowers or foliage that scatter in the wind or when nature exercises her divine right. Art that is ephemeral and environmentally responsible, for when Nils Udo steps into the natural world, his modes of artistic action are respectful of the place and its ecosystem. His small floral arrangements and plant constructions are discreet to avoid disturbing the environment. They melt and blend naturally into the landscape. "The arrangements are a non-destructive gesture," he explains. His creations do not disturb or upset the natural balance, but with his works he forces people to confront reality.
We have all built cabins in the woods, made flower arrangements in a field, twisted twigs into nests or lined up seashells on the beach – we have all built dreams that bind us to the Earth. And if the works of Nils Udo affect us so much is, it is because they rekindle the wonder of childhood. Not in a nostalgic way, but by making us want to go back, to renew that bond that, as adults, we have neglected a bit. And for the city dwellers that we have become, if this return to nature is compelling, a good way to scratch that itch is to go see and perhaps even buy a magnificent photo by Nils Udo at the ART PARIS contemporary art fair.
The photos of Nils Udo will be on view at ART PARIS ART FAIR at the stands of the following galleries: Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier and Galerie Claire Gastaud, from 26 to 29 March 2015 at the Grand Palais. Otherwise they can be seen throughout the year at both galleries.