From Nature to Nature: Environmental Sculptures Evoke Cycle of Life

”We are constantly dealing with variables and have to be resourceful. The conditions such as wind, tides, cloud, the angle of the sun all impact on our creative process.” – Philippa Jones

Martin Hill and Philippa Jones are two artists who have embarked on a 14-year journey together, creating beautifully transient sculptures in natural environments all around the world. In one global project that has been underway since 1995, the two are creating a series of 12 sculptures on high points that when connected, create a circle around the earth. We caught up with Martin and Philippa to explore their unique process and driving principles.

Tell us a little about your environmental sculptures.

Martin: My art practice, in collaboration with Philippa Jones, is focused on making and photographing environmental sculptures in nature that return to nature.

Philippa: The sculptures are ephemeral meaning they return back to nature without any harm and are a metaphor to communicate the fundamental principles of sustainable design learned from natural systems.


Martin: We exhibit the photographs internationally as a way to spread a story about the new design philosophy where no waste is produced. My photographs are all that remains of the sculptures. For me making this body of work is my way of connecting with nature to tell the story of the transition that is underway now towards a circular economy that emulates the way nature works.

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Could you explain the the concept of a circular economy?

Nature is sustainable by design. Fueled by sunlight everything is recycled: all waste becomes food for something else.

In the new circular economy, businesses and social systems are designed with principles learned from natural systems. Innovations using what is available locally run on renewable energy in cooperative relationships with one another, these cyclical systems eliminate waste and deliver multiple benefits and jobs. They out compete existing harmful models, making them obsolete.

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When did you begin creating art together in this manner? From where did the concept stem? 

Martin: Philippa and I met through climbing and began to work together on making the sculptures in 1995. I make the photographs. I had been a designer for 30 years and also a climber visiting many wild parts of the world.

Philippa: We moved from inner city Auckland 11 years ago to Wanaka where we have access to the kind of wild natural landscapes we love.

How do you choose the locations for each shot?

Martin: We are drawn to wild natural landscapes especially in the mountains. We make our sculptures where we love to be.

Philippa: Antarctica New Zealand invited us to Scott Base, Ross Island in 2014 where we created the 10th sculpture on our global Fine Line Project which we began in 1995: 12 sculptures on high points connected by a line that encircles the earth. During the two weeks we were there we made many other sculptures, one of which is ”Anthropocene”, made of frozen snow blocks in much the same way as the Inuit use to build igloos.

Martin: The reason we placed the human figure in the centre is because humans are now the largest force on the planet. “Anthropocene” is the name given by scientists to this new epoch.


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What is one of the most challenging locations you’ve worked in?

Philippa: There are many different challenges in making this kind of work and every time it’s different. We are constantly dealing with variables and have to be resourceful. The conditions such as wind, tides, cloud, the angle of the sun all impact on our creative process. The combination of the idea, the place, the skills needed with the materials may – or may not – come together as planned to create a successful outcome. When it all works it’s a great feeling and for us the photograph is testament to that experience.

Check out more of Martin and Philippa’s works and photographs at

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