Alexander Hamilton (b.1950) grew up in Caithness, Scotland. He studied Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, after qualifying, he spent 6 months recording the plants on the uninhabited island of Stroma, creating his first photogram images. This began a 40 year journey exploring connections to plants and landscape. His work was shown throughout Europe with the exhibition ‘The Peace Rose and the Pursuit of Perfection’. He also collaborated with a centre for plant research at the University Hohenheim Stuttgart on the use of plants as bio indicators, shown at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in 2002. In 2008 a major showing of his photogram images, Blue Flora Celtica, was presented at the Foksal Gallery Warsaw. From 2002 to 2007 he worked with Richard Ashrowan, on creating a multi-screen moving image installation based on natural landscapes. These works have been exhibited at the Threshold Artspace in Perth, Ruskin Gallery in Cambridge, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Fabrycka Sztuki in Poland. In 2009 he completed a one year residency programme at Brantwood, responding to Ruskin’s ideas on ecology and botany, with funding from The Leverhulme Trust. In 2010 he will complete a new programme of work with the University of Life Sciences, Poznan for the British Council Darwin Now programme.

Art & Ecology - Observational Method

My work encourages viewers to renegotiate their relationship with the environment. This approach is developed with a method based upon Goethe’s theory of knowledge: ‘conscious-process-participation’. It focuses attention on the phenomena themselves, and on the dynamic relationships formed in space and time, between the observer and the observed.

Goethe was doubtful as to whether conventional scientific methodology should be accepted as the exclusive approach to nature, relying instead on his own, direct experience of the natural world as a source for his scientific insights into nature’s processes. This ‘Goethean’ way of science pays rigorous attention to empathy, intuition and imagination. Most artists spontaneously engage with the phenomena of the natural world without necessarily being conscious of the why and how of their approach. Goethe, on the other hand, directed his conscious awareness toward the process of engagement itself.

He developed a methodology for a participatory, phenomenon-focused science that allows anybody who engages in its sustained practice to access an experience of reality as process, interaction and relationship. This methodology has four stages: 1) exact sense perception; 2) exact sensorial fantasy; 3) seeing is beholding; and 4) being one with the object. It involves acknowledging our own personal involvement in how we usually meet the world, and the fact that we habitually employ a set of basic assumptions. This observational method is central to how I engage with my work and the art works that I create.