5 Artists Tackling Climate Change

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From pioneering climate activists to new wave photographers

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Art has long been an indicator of the key issues of its time. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re seeing more artists than ever before using their platform to highlight the gravity of the climate emergency. Below we share the stories of five environmental artists who are working to evoke change – before it’s too late. 

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5 Environmental Artists Tackling Climate Change

 

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Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

British sculptor and photographer Andy Goldsworthy not only works with nature, but in nature. He crafts his art out of materials like snow, ice and wood and mud, meaning they are often short-lived, subject to the whims of the environment they occupy. This highlights the ephemerality that the natural world brings to manmade creations. ‘It’s not about art,’ he has explained. ‘It’s just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last.’

Image from Instagram

Agnes Denes

Agnes Denes

One of the first pioneers of environmental art, Agnes Denes has been warning us about the dangers our planet faces since the ’60s. The Budapest-born artist is perhaps best known for her 1982 piece Wheatfield – A Confrontation, in which she cleared two acres of land in lower Manhattan, filled it with 200 truckloads of soil and sowed a wheatfield by hand. Positioned in front of the financial district and framed by the Twin Towers, the piece was an act of protest against the Wall Street bankers, and a reflection on the misuse of space and inequity of global trade. Sadly, Wheatfield has only grown more prescient with time. A recent retrospective at The Shed in New York saw Denes, now 90, finally getting the recognition she deserves.

Image: Wheatfield – A Confrontation, from Instagram

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

Danish-Icelandic environmental artist Olafur Eliasson is known for his large-scale art installations, which often use elemental materials to enhance the viewer’s experience. His most famous piece is 2014 work Ice Watch, which saw him – alongside a team of geologists – transporting ice blocks from Greenland to London. In a bid to inspire public action against climate change, these were placed outside Tate Modern and left to melt. In his latest project, Life, Eliasson has raised the pond outside of Switzerland’s Fondation Beyeler, removing the museum’s glass façade to allow it to flood. In a statement about the artwork, Eliasson writes: ‘Together with the museum, I am giving up control over the artwork, so to speak, handing it over to human and non-human visitors, to plants, microorganisms, the weather, the climate—many of these elements that museums usually work very hard to keep out.’

Image: Ice Watch, from Instagram 

Thirza Schaap

Thirza Schaap

Walking around the beaches of Cape Town, artist Thirza Schaap was struck by the perpetual mass of plastic debris washed up on its shores. She decided to start collecting the rubbish, then photographing it and sharing images on social media. Once her photos started to gain some traction, Schaap took it a step further. She now creates constructions from her findings – which range from toothbrushes to lighters – and arranges them against pastel-hued backgrounds. The pieces are beautiful – but deceptively so, as the message behind them is grave.

Image from Instagram

Benjamin Von Wong

Montreal-based photographer Benjamin Von Wong creates thought-provoking images to help raise awareness of green issues, particularly surrounding plastic pollution in our oceans. As part of his most recent project, Von Wong has enlisted volunteers to help build a large installation with plastic flowing out of it, with a giant faucet at the top designed to – in his words – ‘tell people that we need to turn off the plastic tap’.

Image from Instagram