CHRIS HILL Nocturnal Landscapes: World of Soil, paintings



Salmon Falls Gallery (1 Ashfield St, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370, Shelburne Falls MA)

Self-taught artist and Turners Falls resident Chris Hill has been practicing acrylic painting and sculpture for many years. A previous career in soil science and an in-depth knowledge of plant and insect ecology informs his detailed visions of environmentally friendly agricultural compositions.

Nocturnal Landscapes is an ongoing series of surreal botanical paintings depicting cultivation in harmony with nature. Begun as a reaction against chemical-industrial agriculture, the series has evolved into a celebration of soil regeneration and ecosystem building. Each luminous canvas contains a surreal garden that has been tended by careful hands, nourished with compost and flush with microbial life. Among the crops that sprout forth, beneficial weeds, fungi, and insects abound.

In the artist’s words, “I’m humbled when I look closely at a square yard of field or forest growth. Within is likely contained dozens of species of plants of all sizes, ranging from tree saplings to miniscule, ancient bryophytes. There could be small animals, hundreds or thousands of small insects; millions of nematodes, protozoa, archaea, and algae; billions of fungi and bacteria. Interactions between each organism are specific and contribute to the continuation of the whole. The biomass represented by the bodies of those billions of organisms is a sustaining, renewable food bank. Compost and natural fertilizer put into this system can increase production and output. While synthetic chemical fertilizer and pesticide allow for great initial output, they quickly deplete the biomass and humus that often took centuries to create.

To appreciate the lowly flower that briefly blooms there and to understand that while this flower might be called a weed, innumerable organisms call it a home.”

The artist will donate part of the proceeds from this show to western Massachusetts farms affected by recent flooding. Chris states “My work is largely inspired by the small farms here in the valley, so I want to try to help the farmers in their time of need.”