Personal statement MA Fine Art (studio Research)
‘The concept of landscape as an active verb and an ongoing process, as the making and remaking of land and human subject, is impossible to avoid.’ (Casid, 2008, p.179).
At present my practice seems rooted in research. It pushes the boundaries of my understanding of what landscape art can be and I have discovered how the landscapes I have moved through, during my life, have played a part in both my formulation and growth. My physical presence in the landscape is the central point of the work and research that I am undertaking; ideas and ways of practice flow from me, informing one another but always referring back to me, out in the landscape. I am taking part as an active character in the reciprocal drama between humans and the landscape, not as a genre but using the landscape as a medium with which I both learn from and work with (Casid, 2008). I am trying to discover and reignite that spiritual spark that enchanted moment that we used to find in Nature. This seems to have been lost as we have become more technology and consumer driven in the disenchanted world of today. I wish to rediscover the traditional sublime of the Romantic artists; those awe-inspiring feelings with moments of fear induced by my natural surroundings, rather than the consumer, shopping-orientated sublime of today. I want my moment of transcendence out in the countryside not in a shopping centre. Am I somehow tapping into an ancestral memory? Am I sharing the feelings of my hunter gatherer or even Medieval Villain forefathers, who enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with an enchanted land? My practice explores this complex relationship that exists between the human race and the planet and visually expresses how Nature and mankind are coexisting today.
I am exploring and researching this relationship in a variety of ways, the main avenues being: photography, collecting and displaying, and mark-making. The photographs immortalise fleeting changes caught in a digital instant. The collection and display element at present has manifested into creating ‘flower’ arrangements formed from natural and man-made elements, the man-made elements being rubbish. The ‘flower’ arrangements take something transient and turn it into something permanent. Importantly each element of rubbish has been found and collected during my walks around my chosen edgeland site of Broadmarsh Nature Reserve, Havant. The time spent walking in this site and the site itself are important elements of my research; interestingly the mark-making has begun to take a back seat within my art practice.
The drawn mark has held a fascination for me throughout my previous art practice, be it involved in my life drawing, painting and sketching of the landscape, or manifesting itself in the collection of natural marks produced by the weather and tide. These techniques involved me either directly or indirectly with the indexical mark-making process. The photography and collection of objects started as a by-product during the production of my previous work. Intriguingly these have developed into my main lines of enquiry, neither of which seem to have the same indexical link back to the hand of the artist as the mark-maker. However an indexical link can be found to the sea; in the marked and abraded surface of the rubbish. I now have to re-evaluate myself as a photographer and collector rather than an artist who is making marks.
The photographs and ‘flower’ arrangements are about my feelings for and interaction with the landscape. I am celebrating the small moments of enchantment that I still experience out in the landscape, while questioning whether the landscape is still beautiful in its present incarnation. Whilst having accepted the situation I have seen, I am trying to picture with the photographs and make with the arrangements the truth of that location, therefore revealing it for contemplation. The rubbish has become an integral part of the landscape which, despite this neglect, is still beautiful. I have become obsessed with the sheer diversity and age of the rubbish that I find. The photographs and ‘flower’ arrangements are similar in their initial attraction: the camera turns the rubbish into something beautiful within its photographic representation and the ‘flower’ arrangements have a connotation of natural beauty. However, this is followed by the comprehension that the photographs and arrangements are full of rubbish. The photographs are exploring the natural landscape through a man-made substance, the plastic bottle, found discarded in the environment. The viewers do not initially notice the rubbish in the photograph as they are looking through it, but they do recognise the landscape. They depict a strange world where the rubbish and the landscape have become inextricably combined. The landscape is overshadowed by the age of consumerism and is becoming lost in a world full of simulations. The distinction between the real and unreal is so blurred we seem to be blindly following a path, through the wardrobe into Narnia, into a world dominated by virtual reality in which the elements of time and space have imploded (Ritzer, 1999). At present, I can still spend time moving through the vast open space of a not totally natural landscape, celebrating with my work the fact that the enchanted real world is still there.
The position I find myself in is one of discovery: I seem to live my life as an observer at the edge of family and society. Now my work has led me to a grotty edgeland landscape, bordered by sea, motorway and sewage works, where I am observing and recording the gradual disappearance of our enchanted natural world into the simulated, spectacular, digital world of cyberspace. I feel as though I am witnessing the loss of my childhood world as I discover myself.
‘Landscapes change and change again, presenting an ever-expanding set of questions for study. We can only know them as specific entities for a short time, but through them – because of them – we can come to know our evolving selves.’ (Harris, 2008, p.194).
I wish to share my findings and art with a wider audience and have been working on and developing, with the help of John Dane the University Chaplin, a way to introduce my work into the Church, which is ongoing.
The artists and subjects I have been looking at are: Stephen Turner, Anya Gallaccio, Elina Brotherus, Daro Montag, Fiona Rae, 17th Century Dutch flower painting, memento moiré; Christianity and the environment, landscape and how self and religion are entwined, and the disenchantment and re-enchantment of the consumer world. (1080)
Casid, Jill H. (2008) ‘Landscape Trouble’, in DeLue & Elkin (ed.) Landscape Theory. Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 179 -187.
Harris, D. (2008) ‘Self and Landscape’, in DeLue & Elkin (ed.) Landscape Theory. Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 187 – 194.
Northcott, M.S. (1996) The Environment & Christian Ethics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Ritzer, G. (1999) Enchanting a Disenchanted World. Thousand Oaks, Calif, London, Pine Forge Press.
Berry, R. J. (ed.) (2006) Environmental Stewardship: critical perspectives, past and present. London, New York, T&T Clark.
Elkins, J. & Morgan, D. (2009) Re-Enchantment. Oxon, Routledge.
Evans, D. (ed.) (2012) The Art of Walking: a Field Guide. London, Black Dog.
Llewellyn, N. (1991) The Art of Death. London, Published in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum by Reaktion Books.
MacFarlane, R. (2015) Landmarks. Milton Keynes, Penguin Random House.
Montag. D. (ed.) (2008) Artful ecologies: art, nature & environment conference 2006. RANE Research in Art, Nature & Environment; Art, Nature & Environment Conference, University College Falmouth. July 2006. Cornwall : RANE Research Cluster.
Palmer, J. (ed.) (2001) Fifty Key Thinkers on the Environment. London, Routledge.
Spaid, S. (2002) Ecovention. Co-published by: greenmuseum.org, The Contemporary Arts Centre, ecoartspace.
Weintraub, L. (2012) To Life! London, University of California Press.