So, it’s that time of year again. The ground is covered in a rustling mass of reds, browns, oranges, and golds. Autumn is often considered the most beautiful time of year; the lighting is soft, the air is clear, and everybody can feel the changing season. It almost makes up for the lack of daylight and dropping temperatures.
If you pay attention to any social media at all – I’m mainly looking at you, Instagram – you’ll have noticed the sudden abundance of pictures of windswept piles of leaves and bare trees against vivid sunsets. The changing of the seasons, and everything it entails, becomes seen as the world’s greatest collective artwork.
My question is, how far does nature in general count as art? And where can we truly see art in the natural world around us? But this just leads us on to the age old question – what is art? And how does it differ to beauty? Because as much as these concepts are not mutually exclusive (art does not have to be beautiful and beauty does not have to be art) they are almost always considered synonymously.
There is very little in nature that can’t be considered beautiful. Everywhere you look in the natural world there is colour and shapes and patterns that blend so harmoniously together that we have no other option but to call them beautiful. Waterfalls, sunsets, the northern lights, I could go on. There is beauty everywhere. But how do we draw the line between Beauty and Art? Should we draw a line?
Take the Fugu, the Japanese Puffer Fish, which spends a week creating intricate patterns in the sand in order to attract a mate (check out the video on the BBC website, it’s amazing). It is almost impossible to deny that what the fish creates is art, but what makes it so? Is it the work and effort that goes into its creation that names it art, as opposed to the beauty we may see naturally occurring patterns in the sand?
But even here we must continue to question, as the puffer fish does not choose to make these pretty patterns for any other reason than to attract a mate as his species has evolved to do. Does this take away from the suggestion that this feat is artwork? Or does the fact that we can see exactly where this pattern comes from automatically grant it this prestigious title, as opposed to say, the male peacock who has no control over his beauty?
What I suppose I’m really asking, in a roundabout kind of way, is whether or not the term ‘art’ is just a bullshit way of us as humans to place a certain aspect of pride on the beauty that we create. So much art, whether it be paintings or photos to dances and poems, is based on works of nature. Perhaps it is just human nature to resent the fact that, no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to replicate the splendour of the living world around us.
But whatever the reason we feel this innate need to prove ourselves against the image of mother nature, we can all admit that being able to love and appreciate this beauty in every way is what makes us human, and that we should treasure it for as long as we’re able. So get out there and fill the virtual world with images of the turning leaves and fluffy clouds, make the most of this beautiful time of year.