This research point asks us to look at “… artists from different eras who use landscape as their main subject”. That’s a big topic! I have partly been using it as a prompt to look back at some research that I did when studying the Photography Landscape module – notably (and satisfying the brief) I have re-read this book – ‘Landscape and Western Art’ by Malcolm Andrews – which serves as a sound introduction/refresher and neatly explores the development of whatever we mean by ‘Landscape’ from the setting of early religiously-themed art, through the picturesque and the sublime, to 20th century land art, and touching significantly, along the way, on the politics of landscape. It is, as I say, a big topic; and I am strongly resisting the temptation – here – to get into any detailed theory/thought/debate. I may return to it later. Perhaps sufficient to say that it is a rich topic that one would be unwise to try and simply summarise. Whatever 21st century, deconstructionist sensitivity one might bring to looking at the Claude Lorrains, the Constables, the Thomas Coles, and so on, there is a wonder about them and they shape our view. “Landscape is not a genre of art but a medium”, WJT Mitchell is quoted as writing in 1994. Richard Long is quoted, in 1984, saying that his art “… was the antithesis of so-called American ‘Land Art’, where an artist needed money to be an artist, to buy real estate to claim possession of the land, and to wield machinery. True capitalist art.” As I said, it is a rich topic.
I was pleased to note that the module directs us towards the work of George Shaw. There was a time, during my Photography degree, when I was interested in trying to create photographic images that mimicked the effect he achieves with Humbrol paints. The irony was not lost on me, I stress; Shaw primarily works (in his Devon studio) from photographs that he took when walking around his childhood home on the Tile Hill Estate in Coventry. In the immediate context of this course, the first time I encountered his work was in an exhibition that included a series of etchings – Twelve Short Walks 2006. That works particularly well as I approach the Exercise ‘Sketchbook walk’.
Two other books that I have recently acquired, following Bryan’s recommendation, are Vitamin D: New perspectives in Drawing and Vitamin D2: New perspectives in Drawing. They’re very recent acquisitions and I haven’t yet had chance to study the introductory essays etc, but I have put them to good use in the context of “… artists from different eras who use landscape as their main subject” – specifically, the current era (however defined). Vitamin D was published in 2005 and contains work by 109 artists, noted for their use of or contribution to Drawing, since 1990. Vitamin D2 was published in 2013 and picks up with subsequent work by 115 artists. A (admittedly fairly rapid) look through revealed three artists in the first book and four in the second “… who use landscape as their main subject”. That’s seven out of a sample of 224. And I don’t think I’ve particularly stringent in my approach to the selection. Four examples follow:
It’s a diverse group but my impression is that, in pretty well all cases, they fall into the WJT Mitchell context, whereby Landscape is the medium. Sometimes it is the ground within which another narrative is performed, but it is not, even then, a bystander. These ‘landscapes’ have a strong presence through which meaning is being explored; they have mood and a sense of the unconscious. That I find interesting.
There will be more research and, probably, more reflection here.