Nathan Cole is a visual artist, photographer, writer, and aspiring naturalist based in Toronto, Canada. Nathan’s practice is based on the exploration of the natural world both physically and visually. By following the pathways set out in nature, he hopes to rebuild connections between our natural spaces and our minds. To unlearn the processes of contemporary society and to overcome his own mental health challenges, he is looking to fully immerse himself in his surroundings by rewilding his mind and senses. Using photography as both a connective tool for himself and his viewers, he then translates these observational details onto his favoured medium of scratchboard.
Through his work and experiences with the animals that he depicts, he is hoping to challenge some of the myths, perceptions, and preconceptions surrounding wildlife. Stories and imagery are incredibly important, and our understanding and relationship with nature is so often based around them. With the awareness that for some of these species, their very existence is at stake in our current world, Nathan hopes to challenge harmful practices through representation, education, and his own process of rewilding.
Nathan’s work has been greatly informed and enhanced by international artist residencies, and the incredible diversity of wildlife surrounding them. He explored the lush valleys and winding waterways of Puntarenas, Costa Rica during the Mauser EcoHouse, then the desert landscape and rocky hills of Rajasthan while attending the Farm Studio residency in India. He has exhibited his work across North America and internationally, including in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Gallery, Zurich Main Station, and the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto. Awards for his work include 3rd place for the Boynes Emerging Artist Award, Best in Show for “Artists of the World” show at the Tall Sequoia Gallery, and a semi-finalist at ARTBOX.Projects Barcelona and Miami. His scratchboard work and photography have been published in ArtAscent and Murze Magazines. Nathan has a BFA from Western University in London, Canada.
Nathan's work is made possible through funding from the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Foundation.
Scratchboard, by its very construction and purpose, is a very fragile medium - you create by taking away and any missed stroke could ruin what you have created so far. Humanity and its relation to nature is quite similar. Humans create their society by taking away, cutting down and stripping the resources to create their cities and culture. Their impact on the wildlife and habitats around them is deeply affected by this process, but also in how they build their culture, the stories told and myths created. The perception of particular animals due to their place in history can very well determine their livelihood. Are the animals viewed as a threat to humans, are they treasured for their fur or meat, do they have mythic properties on the black market, or are they perceived as a pest to be rid of? Does your pet have more inherent value than a wild creature? Creating expressive animal portraits with scratchboard creates a tenuous relationship between viewer and creature, where historical and cultural perceptions can deeply affect how they see the animal in front of them. The painstaking and slow process of creating the art is echoed by the careful approach that must be taken for examining some of the myths and perceptions of these wondrous animals and how that may affect conservation efforts. In this way I hope that by creating art, I can improve the relationships of humans and the cities they live in to the wildlife surrounding them.