All Kathy Herbert’s art is permeated by a desire to understand the process of interaction between humans and the Earth but, above all, the aim of her art is the creation of ideas that not only connect people to each other but also connects them to the World.
Environmental and ecological art is a spontaneous continuation of some artistic movements such as Land Art and Arte Povera. Herbert in the beginning of her career practiced Land Art, but during the eighties a new critical approach developed which saw a traditional sculpture as outdated and potentially out of harmony with the environment so the artists adopted new conceptual visions designed to preserve the balance with nature.
Herbert’s art not only uses natural material to realize her art work but she investigates nature to express better her discovery and analysis of the natural processes that surround us. Among her works in progress, Bricks to Shells (2012-ongoing) tells us about the marine erosion process and consequent modification of materials. The shells, the original homes of sea creatures, become an important part of her research as she reshapes bricks, which have been washed up by the waters of the Irish Sea, as cochlea.
The observation of nature and its changes, through the cognitive process, are at the basis of Herbert’s artistic research. She wants to create connections with people and their essence in the context of their relationship with the natural world. An example of her art is given by the work titled All we’ve got (2011): a sculpture in limestone of three spheres, each carrying a carving of the artist’s handprints. The handprints hold between them the Earth’s vital energy, in a protective gesture: it appears as an invite to everybody to take care of the only good thing that we have and share – Earth.
Herbert is following the great environmental legacy left by the German artist Joseph Beuys, she is looking to encourage a critical conscience in the audience.
In Trail (2010) she creates a real repeatable and recognizable path using of geographical coordinates and the name of the place where the tree is located. Moreover, with her drawings, she shows how the vegetation is forced to live in urban centres in conditions of total restriction. In Urban Foxes (2007) we are in front of an environmental problem, which shows behaviour change and adaptation of foxes living in the city due to the ease of finding food. This art work shows how the change in the environment has affected the life of this animal species, which is forced to survive by taking refuge in a “civilized” environment.
In a nutshell, observation, understanding and interaction between individuals is what prevails in the art of Kathy Herbert, who aspires to connect people daily inside natural environment, but she puts under observation with her art works some strange human tendencies, such as her Blanchardstown Walking (2013): a notebook in which she records every day what she sees and what she hears during some brief stops in the largest shopping centre in Ireland, Blanchardstown centre. This space it’s possible to call a nonspace, according to French Anthropologist Marc Augé who used for the first time this neologism to explain the no relational spaces where people is usual, in the modern age, to spend a lot of time without entering in connection with each other. In the opposite side of these nonspaces, Herbert tries with her art work to create sympathetic relationships in anthropologic spaces in which every person is able to keep in touch with themselves and the surrounding nature to carry out socialize spaces in complete respect with the ecological environment.
Sometimes her way to create art works could appear as intangible, but that is not true since she is interested in the everyday interaction of people and the ecological environment and her endeavours suggest to us a new vision and a new approach to life in accordance with Nature. Draíocht Residency (2013) shows how the artist is always looking for some vegetative element able to bring man into nature even in those areas where it is deleted by urbanization projects. Leaf Survey, Leaf Graffiti and Word Tree are part of this work cycle born during the artist residency in Draíocht, Blanchardstown. The social return of her artistic interventions are therefore a real proof and consistent work of a woman who makes every day of her ideas her original artistic product.