On Man and Nature
Creative journeys in search for our hidden humanity
It is in nature that I find a wild, gentle, raw and soothing beauty –
this is what I seek to celebrate as an artist.
And it is in nature that I also find the quiet space to reflect on who I am, and to reconnect with my inner joy and humanity –
this is what I seek as a human being.
RECONNECTING WITH NATURE - REMEMBERING WHO WE ARE - REDISCOVERING OUR COMMON HUMANITY
What has happened along the human journey between the Sacred Caves of the San and the hum of the hadron collider, and why have we become so lost to ourselves and to the living world around us, to both humans and nature?
And how do we restore ourselves to a place of connection that brings kindness, community, joy and meaning back into our everyday?...
NOEL ASHTON - ARTIST WRITER CREATIVE INNOVATOR TEACHER POET and ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST
"How does one best describe the journey of the seeker when the pathways are guided by the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist, seemingly contradictory signposts which surely lead in opposite directions? To answer this question is to encounter the life-journey of Noel Ashton, and to see how divergence can be brought together into unique and engaging expressions, where these two worlds are blended into one, in service of people and the environment,
Noel engages both his scientific mind and the vehicles of language and art to create, embark upon, and facilitate for others the process of a transformative creative journey. Through the centre of Noel’s life and work runs the emancipating theme of creativity with purpose, offering us opportunities to engage, encounter different perspectives, reflect and ultimately redefine our relationship to ourselves, to each other and to the natural world".
ELIZABETH CAIRNS, 2020
A journey born of questions, guided by creativity, and shared in artworks and narrative thought-journeys
The pathways of our lives are, at their essence, a journey to discover who we are and how we fit into this magnificent but mysterious world. But where do you begin in a world formed around distraction and a rushing towards tomorrow?
For me, one of the pathways was through art and an exploration of the natural world, of landscapes and the many lives that fill them. My scientific process forged discovery through research and scientific illustration of the worlds cetaceans, but it was in the silence of the studio and the remote caves of the ancestors that I found a space to deeply question and reflect on this pivotal phase of the human journey.
The gift of these moments was the insight that the search for the deeper symbolism and thought-journeys during the process of creating were pivotal in my unfolding search for answers. I began to see how the artworks acted as signposts that invited a deep exploration of the motivation and inspiration behind each piece - a journey within, including the subconscious, memory, symbolism and perception that influenced the language of each creative journey. And out of these were born a better understanding of the human condition, as well as that place where our human world and the space of nature intersect.
These journeys, by their very nature, are walked alone, but time has shown me that to share what we have learned is a touchstone of our humanity. And as artworks stand alone and in silence, I also seek to offer the thought-journeys and inspiration behind each piece as a way to share not only what I have created, but what I have learned in the process as well.
That is the motivation behind this website. Welcome.
Rosetta naturae and The Ubuntu Bowl
A return to Kindness
The Ubuntu Bowl - an offering of kindness
The global pandemic, and the way it has ravaged lives and restructured society has created a pause, and invited us to look more closely at the dynamics which have governed our lives. It also offers us a chance to really question who we are and what we want before automatically slipping back into the same old ways prior to the onset of the pandemic.
As I have sought out my own pathway through nature and landscapes, I have come across the ancient hearths of our ancestors, places of such intense silence, but which also offer us a chance to listen to what is important to us, and to seek a future that brings our lives into closer alignment to who we really are and what we really need on a personal level.
My own journey on reflecting on these issues has been guided by two important sculptures, Rosetta naturae and The Ubuntu Bowl which have had a profound influence on how I see the world and my vision of the future. Inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutus' words at the launch of Sacred Ocean, as well as my thoughts around what that pivotal sculpture made visible about our capacity for both cruelty and kindness, this new initiative is my response to the many questions that have surfaced during this very difficult time.
It will be launched in early 2022 as I feel it is an offering who’s time has come, and I hope it will resonate with the questions that many people are seeking answers to right now.
Click here to learn more
RECONNECTING WITH NATURE - REMEMBERING WHO WE ARE - REDISCOVERING OUR COMMON HUMANITY
The structure of this website
Each section of this website is intended to offer an introduction or background to the various aspects which have been the foundations of my journey, and insights to my thoughts and creative offerings.
As has been introduced above, Rosetta naturae and The Ubuntu Bowl introduces the new programme,and offers some background to this latest body of work.
The Gallery is an overview of the paintings and sculptures, but as this body of work is spread over thirty years, a separate gallery website offers a fuller introduction of the works. These include the horse bronzes, the whale and dolphin paintings, sculptures and scientific illustrsation, the wildlife, bird and landscape paintings....
Into the Oceans covers the first fifteen years of my creative output which primarily but not exclusively focussed on the whales and dolphins of the world. This work was all built on a research project where I developed a precise format of morphological mapping which enabled me to create highly accurate scientific illustrations of the worlds species, as can be seen on the Research page, whilst the Into the Oceans page offers an overview of the multitude of programmes and application that resulted from this initial body of work, including The Whale Show, The Whale Walk, exhibitions, environmenatal and conservation programmes, talks and books
Storylines is an introduction to the various presentations and programmes that coalesed around a specific theme, and were offered as exhibitions, talks, Dvd's, books or public displays, or a combination of the above
to know again what it is to walk upon the earth
with a feeling of deep belonging...
Engaging with the natural world as a pathway to re-discovering our own inner human nature
To walk upon the earth is to re-awaken something hidden within ourselves, for although it is said that we re-connect with nature, it is in fact us reconnecting to our inner knowing, with who we are. And if it is our wish to reconnect with nature, time with the whisper of the winds and the flickering light upon the surface of a gentle stream will invite us to pause, and help us to reconnect with our own truth, and then we will remember that we are not separate from nature, we are a part of it, and we shall feel like we have come home.
Rosetta naturae is an ongoing social media and exhuibition programme that seeks to share my expereinces in the natural world by combing painting and sculptures with thoughts around the creation and context of each piece.
It is the tracks that I follow into the light of the dawn that invite me into this landscape of belonging, for in them I see my own journey through life and my search for place. And in this silent moment I begin to awaken to the inner knowing that this is where my soul senses home and where my spirit finds the space to roam.
And in the strangest way, it is here that I begin to understand what it means to be human
Given context and direction from this unique sculpture, Rosetta Naturae offers us pathways towards re-connection, and glimpses of respite from the rigors and artificial pace of the modern world. The tracks of time that cross the sculpture capture the essence of what it means to engage fully in an experience, and to begin to translate meaning between our modern world and the space of nature, for it is when we leave the world of man that we start to glimpse what it means to be human in a wider living universe.
Do you know of the fox in the shadows that silently watches as you pass by, or witness the return of the swallows as a gift of spring’s awakening? And in the silence of these encounters do they awaken something deep within you, for they each hold the possibility of inviting us to a fuller and richer experience of life.
And in knowing them we can know ourselves better.
And do you remember that moment when you realized that we do not walk this world alone, and that the raven and the rhino share our journey through life on this beautiful blue planet in an infinite galaxy of stars?
A pathway into nature is a journey back to our true selves
“An artist with a poetic soul”
T.H. Chairman SATA 2012
Journeys in search of the mysterious mammals of the deep...
What began as a commission to illustrate the elusive Heaviside's dolphin for the International Whaling Commission in the early eighties has turned into an ongoing research programme that seeks to better understand the complex morphology of the worlds cetaceans.
This foundational data has in turn been developed into a series of scientific paintings and sculptures, and, with extensive field research and observations, incorporated into three field guides, educational materials for teachers, workshops, talks and conservation programmes. These include the Whale Walk and Whale Show produced in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a set of definitive scientific illustrations funded by the De beers group, workshops in partnership with the Two Ccean Aquarium and De Beers Marine, and the Sacred Ocean sculpture and campaign launched by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.