Art, nature, and serenity

Artists discuss how nature can give our fast-paced lifestyles perspective

Courtesy Johnny Boivin

Engulfed in a quest for success, the heavy workload handled by students can be problematic for mental health, especially in a context of isolation.

Nature is a great escape towards a mindset grounded in the present moment, contemplation and serenity. Connecting with untouched ecosystems allows beings to experience an alternative pace of life and learn about how they engage with the land.

Diving into the enjoyment of natural life, Jean-Simon Bégin, a Quebec based wildlife photographer and painter, immerses himself in nature to capture the beauty of the fauna and flora. For him, embracing an attentive state of contemplation allows rational thoughts to go away.

Bégin feels privileged to share space with wild animals and each interaction connects him with the present moment. Their way of living reminds him that we don’t need a lot to exist. 

“When it comes to nature, you understand its fragility,” he explained. The more often you interact with something, the better you understand it. 

In a hectic lifestyle, boredom can be a luxury. It almost appears problematic when feeling it, but those moments hold great potential in terms of creative ideas since distractions prevent them, claimed Bégin. 

Courtesy Jean-Simon Bégin

Daphne Roy is a nature lover who is finishing her degree in design at Concordia. For her, nature is a wise mentor that can help cultivate patience and desire in a world where instantness and consumption are taking over. When exploring nature, we allow ourselves to adopt a peaceful state of mind that constructs our interaction, she claims. 

“If you don’t wait until the right moment to pick a raspberry, it won’t be enjoyable,” explained Roy. 

For her, cities are made for humans and therefore structured around performance which alienates us in a manmade environment. In contrast, nature embraces a slower pace and the different cycles of life. 

Our current lifestyle is disconnected from the seasons as Daphne Roy explains. During fall and winter, days are shorter. It should influence our daily routine but technology enables greater productivity. We are pushed to overcome our natural limits, she said.

Johnny Boivin is an Atikamekw and Innu artist. He is a member of the Youth Council of Native Montreal and member of the Youth Advisory Committee in the frame of the Chaire Réseau Jeunesse: Volet Autochtone.

“[…] I find it important to depict as much nature as I can, for the healing it brings me could heal others as well.” — Johnny Boivin

He grew up in the urban setting of Tiohtià:ke (Montreal), where green areas are only a semblance of nature. For Boivin, people tend to forget that nature is, in fact, everywhere. From the plants at home to the bits of grass and weeds growing in the cracks of concrete outside. We are surrounded by life. 

“From the forested mountains and the bodies of water of the Nitaskinan and Nitassinan (ancestral Atikamekw and Innu lands), to the animals of the territory, I find it important to depict as much nature as I can, for the healing it brings me could heal others as well,’’ explained Boivin. 

“Millennials often overlook that nature has given us everything we need for our survival—from the hides and furs that protected us, which we made from the animals we hunted and ate, to the plants and herbs that fed and healed us,’’ said Boivin. 

Courtesy Jean-Simon Bégin

He advocates immersions in nature, or “forest bathing,” to unwind from the stress that life puts onto us. It is also a great opportunity to learn about the land we live on. The understanding of what surrounds us can also change one’s perspective and vision of life, he explains. 

“The medicines that my ancestors harvested and gathered are not all gone. Many of them are still growing around us, unknowingly to most,” claimed Boivin.

For the Indigenous artist, someone who is foraging must follow Indigenous guidelines of conservation, as some plants are illegally harvested and brought to near extinction. There is so much more beauty in knowing all the amazing sources of life around.

We still have a lot to learn from nature and it starts by immersing ourselves in its aura.