Article in Arts / Art / Paintings
Accompanying notes for a little exhibition of artwork for a local community

Natural Inclusion

Four Paintings Depicting the ‘Each in the Otherness’ of Life

By Alan Rayner

At the ‘Little Gallery’, Bathford Community Café

November 12th – end December 2011



Since childhood, I have drawn inspiration from the natural world and attempted to express my enthusiasm for its variety of form and colour in paintings. In adult life, I carried this enthusiasm into my work as a natural scientist and university teacher. I never saw good reason to separate my ‘scientific side’ from my ‘artistic side’, feeling that they could only enrich each other rather than clash. But I did notice that what my intuitive side was telling me about life is mostly ignored, if not disputed by modern analytical thought and method. My unconscious need to heal this rift, and what I now see as its terrible cost to humanity, became evident in my paintings during the 1970s, long before I became conscious of it in my scientific work. I acquired a colourful, technically unrefined, symbolic style in order to depict imaginary scenes that would come into my mind ‘out of the blue’. An example is shown below (I had no awareness then of what is now known about the division of the human brain into an ‘analytical’ left hemisphere and an ‘intuitive’ right hemisphere, bridged together by a bundle of nerve fibres called the ‘corpus callosum’).

‘Willowy Bridge’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, 1974). The chasm between the left and right worlds of hawkish (with ‘tunnel vision’) and serene (with ‘all-round’ vision) natures is conjoined by a bridge that brings each into the mutual influence of the other, allowing soulful passage into the ‘open’ through the veil in their midst. The bridge is in danger of being cut into opposing sides by a shaft of sunlight

During the last decade or so, my increasingly conscious sense of obligation to ‘heal the rift’ has resulted in my effort to develop a new philosophy of empathy with the natural world and our human place within it. I call this philosophy ‘natural inclusionality’, and I like to think that it could help us all to escape from a needlessly hostile and unsustainable way of life, based on falsely cutting ‘one’ away from ‘other’, in order to live more caringly and co-creatively, with a deeper understanding of our true identity and natural neighbourhood. According to this understanding, we inhabit nature as ‘flow-forms’ in a limitless pool of space, each in the others’ influence, not as objects and subjects isolated by and cut apart from space.

The four paintings shown in this little exhibition and described below each depict this understanding of ‘natural inclusion’ in a different way. Two of them were prepared in conjunction with a poem. I have increasingly found myself writing poetry as a way of bridging what we can see analytically and describe verbally with what we can feel intuitively but cannot articulate in straightforward language.


(Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 2005). Light as a dynamic inclusion of darkness continually brings an endless diversity of flow-form to Life.

Holding Openness

You ask me who you are

To tell a story you can live your life by

A tail that has some point

That you can see

So that you no longer

Have to feel so pointless

Because what you see is what you get

If you don’t get the meaning of my silence

Because you ain’t seen nothing yet


You ask me for illumination

To cast upon your sauce of doubt

Regarding what your life is all about

To find a reason for existence

That separates the wrong

From righteous answer

In order to cast absence out

To some blue yonder

Where what you see is what you get

But you don’t get the meaning of my darkness

Because you ain’t seen nothing yet


You look around the desolation

Of a world your mined strips bare

You ask of me in desperation

How on Earth am I to care?

I whisper to stop telling stories

In abstract words and symbols

About a solid block of land out there

In which you make yourself a declaration

Of independence from thin air

Where what you see is what you get

When you don’t get the meaning of my present absence

Because you ain’t seen nothing yet


You ask of me with painful yearning

To resolve your conflicts born of dislocation

From the context of an other world out where

Your soul can wonder freely

In the presence of no heir

Where what you see is what you get

When you don’t get the meaning of my absent presence

Because you ain’t seen nothing yet


You ask me deeply and sincerely

Where on Earth can you find healing

Of the yawning gap between emotion

And the logic setting time apart from motion

In a space caught in a trap

Where what you see is what you get

And in a thrice your mind is reeling

Aware at last of your reflection

In a place that finds connection

Where your inside becomes your outside

Through a lacy curtain lining

Of fire, light upon the water


Now your longing for solution

Resides within and beyond your grasp

As the solvent for your solute

Dissolves the illusion of your past

And present future

Now your heart begins to thunder

Bursting hopeful with affection

Of living light for loving darkness

Because you ain’t felt no thing yet



A reflection upon the evolutionary inversion from aquatic to terrestrial life

I used to be

Within the Sea

An identity

Of You and Me


In Commonality

Of Sounding

Between Airy Heights

And Bottom Depths

Waving Correspondence

Through Inseparable Togetherness

Of Content with Context


But, Now,



Space comes between Us

A separating distance

An unbecoming Outside

Alienating Forms

As Fixtures

Stranded in Isolation




Oblivious of Our Belonging




Now, moving Fast

Not Languidly

Tans our Hides

Protecting Our Inner Spaces

Against its own

Consuming Presence

Supporting Combustion

Burning Us Out

But all this sealing

Removes Our Feeling

Setting Our Content

At Odds with Our Context

So that we push

Against the Pull

With Backs to Front

Itching to Relieve

Unbearable Friction


And So Now

Just Let’s Go

And, with Loving Fear

Dive into the Clear

And Swim Where it’s Cool

To be In With the Pool




(Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 1999). Implicit in the outward forms of migrant birds and animals are travellers’ tales of flights and treks, of arrivals, departures and time in motion. The migrants bring with them a cultural heritage that enriches the lives of residents. In its long journey, an English Swallow, dark from above, light from below, swallows landscape. Its travail begins in the elemental South African solar heat that is transformed by photosynthesis into Protea flowers. The heat generates a propelling force that carries the bird over veld, above water-seeking springboks, across deserted sand dunes and dark-light realms of fluttering hoopoes until green-topped, white cliffs signal arrival time before May begins to bloom. Speedwell urges onwards; forget-me-not reminds of home; cowslips reflect the strengthening warmth of rising sun, and terns join in aerobatic arrival celebrations. But where is the welcome for human immigrants? Nothing reinforces cancerous invasive potential more strongly than the alienation of the new arrival, one way or the other.


‘Honeysuckle Sharing Circle’ (Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 2003). The painting is centred around a candelabra of honeysuckle blooms. Each bloom is unique in its own sweet way and at a different stage of development - some unopened, some freshly bursting, others yellowing. The blooms face outwards in a representation of combined receptivity and responsiveness towards an inward facing fringe of other flowers, interleaved with grasses: white rockrose; red campion; orange hawkweed; yellow-wort; green hellebore; bluebell; a mystery plant (actually an artistically licensed version of woad, original source of indigotine); violet. The stalk of the honeysuckle winds spirally outwards and then back inwards and downwards to its self origin, creating a pool of reflection, black in the middle and transforming through shades of blue to silver around its outside. When no thing comes between, then no thing pools together a diversity of inner self with outer self-domains, waving correspondence through complementary relationship of one with another, embodying light with shadow across the spectrum of possibilities in common space.

Alan Rayner – A Brief Biography

Alan Rayner was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950. He obtained BA and PhD degrees in Natural Sciences at King’s College, Cambridge and was a Reader in Biology at the University of Bath from 1985 - 2011. As an enthusiastic biological scientist, ecological philosopher, visual artist, poet and essayist, Alan has published over 160 academic papers, articles and book chapters, 7 formal academic books, 8 internet-downloadable books and over 40 internet-downloadable essays. He was President of the British Mycological Society in 1998 and has been a BP Venture Research Fellow and a Miller Visiting Research Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2010. He has held numerous research grants and contracts, contributed to a variety of science- and art-based TV and radio broadcasts and presented many seminars and conference papers as well as convening several international conferences and symposia. The latter include a pioneering Science-Art event, ‘The Language of Water’, which, in 2001, resulted in an acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series, ‘Water Story’, and in 2006 and 2007 ‘Unhooked Thinking I and II', two landmark conferences changing our perceptions of addiction. For the last ten years, Alan has been pioneering ‘natural inclusionality’, a new philosophy and fluid boundary logic of self-identity and ecological and evolutionary diversity and sustainability.

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About the Author 

Alan Rayner
Dr Alan Rayner is a naturalist who uses art, poetry, fluid mathematics and careful science to enquire and communicate about the evolutionary

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