Unframed Landscapes

I was recommended a text in my tutorial titled “Unframed Landscapes” by Maja, N. A., and Fowkes, R., (no date) I found this article pertinent to my work as it talks about the potential for the landscape genre to represent inner experience’ and that ‘when admiring a natural landscape, we apply the same aesthetic conventions we use for appreciating a work of art: ‘ The authors support venturing into the landscape and looking at is an art critic might look at a painting.

The article refer to the work of Ana Opalic, ‘I do not See’ (2002), who presents a series of video-photographs of a disappearing forest path, she refers to what is excluded from our frame of vision. This work of Opalic’s resonates with me as I often take photographs when on my pilgrimages of disappearing footpaths, but have never analysed why I take these. Two photographs in my studio book (below) are of photographs I have taken whilst on pilgrimage of routes through a wood and a corn field, both have disappearing paths. Maybe the imagination of what lies beyond is an effective way of heightening our experience in the landscape, or maybe as Emily Dickinson quotes in her poem; ‘the best things dwell out of site’.

J Sharkey Journal entry (November 2020)

The authors speak about how landscapes has been seen as sublime and picturesque for hundreds of years and suggest that

‘the contemporary unframed landscape takes a critical stance towards the picturesque, either by depicting a landscape that does not correspond to the conventional categories of the picturesque, or by deliberately drawing our attention to those categories’

This quote makes me reflect that my landscapes should include the less attractive parts of the natural scenery, thus challenging the picturesque.

The article continues with a paragraph on land art and the movement from art in the gallery to the living landscape. The authors speak of land art in that it cannot be comprehended through a single image. In this sense, it has been described as ‘an unframed experience with no one correct perspective or focus.’ I can reflect on this in my work as putting words onto images may change how the audience might view the image, should an image be free of text, so that the viewer can apply their own perspective?

The authors criticise land art ‘Land art can be regarded as the most macho of the post-war art movements’ they add Richard Long is another case in point: ‘His work embarrassingly fails to connect with environmental politics and ecological concerns nor with the social conditions of the countries where he walks without travelling.’ This is a consideration I made when creating art on Lundy Island, a marine nature conserve, I used materials from the sea that would go back to where they came from.

They continue to talk how feminism and ecofeminism in particular, has brought a new understanding of how gender has shaped the ways in which we see the environment. They suggest that ‘Eco-feminists aspire to move beyond dualistic thinking and to establish relationships based not on hierarchy and domination, but on caring, respect, and awareness of interconnection.’ This ethos compliments my work in which I wish to connect with the senses more whilst walking, rather than some walking challenged based on mileage or altitude.

This view is supported by Mount, E., (2019) who quotes;

‘ Engaging the traditional landscape is no longer a paysage moralisé or source of moral edification, as it was considered in France and Italy during the 17th-18th centuries. Artists today take into account both the crisis facing nature and the crisis in the definition of nature.’    

There are strong links with my research proposal when the authors speak of how landscape can offer a multi-sensory experience.

“In the conventional landscape that reduces nature to two dimensions, stresses formal qualities and frames and flattens the natural world into scenery, our normal experience of nature is ignored. Nature possesses contextual dimensions, offers a multi-sensory experience, and appears as a seamless unity”. 

The authors draw comparison with the fact that ‘on the one hand we have an everyday emotional relationship with it, on the other, nature is something alien, mystical and unknowable’. I feel this links with my desire to investigate Holy Wells and understanding the folklore that lies alongside them.

I believe the challenge of working in 2D makes it a struggle to represent the living landscape and the way that art portrays landscapes is changing too. There is an opportunity to look at political, ecological and social factors that affect how we see the landscape. A question might be are pilgrims following popular routes such as the Camino Santiago damaging the landscapes that they so want to experience.

References and Bibliography

Maja, N. A., and Fowkes, R., (no date). Unframed landscapes: Nature in contemporary art | NeMe. [Online]. Available at http://www.neme.org/texts/unframed-landscapes. [Accessed on 08/11/2020]

Mount, E., (2019). The Landscape in Art: Nature in the Cross-hairs of an Age-Old Debate. [Online]. Available at http://www.synthespianstudios.net/the-landscape-in-art-nature-in-the-cross-hairs-of-an-age-old-debate/. [Accessed on 17/03/2021]

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