John Cowen

Artist & designer

Human Nature

Our planet is changing. Climate breakdown is a big concern of mine. That there is not a greater sense of urgency about it, around the world, also concerns me. My drawings explore the symbiotic relationship between nature and man made.

Each drawing is a reflection on our impact on the world. Up close you recognise familiar patterns of roads and buildings. From a distance the drawings look like organic patterns, lichen, animal hide or cells.

Anthropocene drawing by John Cowen


2020 | 1260 x 594mm | Ink on paper

Each drawing is a painstakingly created map, some involving over 200 hours of work. The results are mesmerising and highly intricate artworks that from a distance look like organic shapes, but on closer inspection reveal themselves to be familiar patterns of roads and buildings. While beautiful and mesmerising the drawings also make you think about the impact our cities and lifestyles have on the planet.

The maps are not just of cities, but incredibly dense cities, with no indication of countryside, coastline or open space of any kind. Where there is white space on the paper, it is unclear if it represents a boundary the city has been unable to spread into, or if it is simply empty space waiting to be covered up by a growing, perhaps predatory, city. The drawings represent how much of the natural world has been impacted by humans.

The drawings however are not all about the present threats to the planet and our modern lifestyles. They are also a reminder of how much beauty and wonder remains in the world. Each artwork encourages us to be more aware of this and ensure we are doing all we can to protect it.