Friday, 29 July 2016

Disquiet landscapes

I have started developing my new digital forest collages into a large set of A4 photographic prints. After first experimenting with a range of pictorial spaces and surface qualities I have started to build a cohesive arrangement that at present contains around 50 images.

I have decided to present them in a tight grid arrangement which very much links to earlier drawings for the Letheringham Lodge project. Indeed on reflection these photographs function in much the same way as these earlier drawings, with representational elements emerging out of a tangled mass of abstraction.This also links in with earlier writing about a post-modern sublime generated by reproduction.

“networks of reproductive processes thereby afford us some glimpse into a postmodern or technological sublime, whose power or authenticity is documented by the success of such works in evoking a whole new postmodern space”
(Jameson, 2010, p.145).

Re-considering these images as outcome and not just reference I have started to look at the work of photographers in whose work I see correlation with my own.

Paul Nash - Monster field

Nash's 1938 series 'Monster field' documented fallen great oak trees, these are awkward broke objects and encourage a reading of broken hands or limbs. Nash himself described them as possessing 'the mysticism of the "living animate"' They are imbued with a macabre melancholy, twisted,fractured, shards that are not dead but have become something other, something monstrous. Healthy living oak trees in the background of these images act as a counterpoint, evoking  the passage of time. To not take a metaphorical reading of these works is almost impossible, especially when considered alongside Nash's well known war paintings. These are not portraits of trees but portraits of deaths unknown horror.
Paul Nash - Black and white negative, ‘Monster Field’ - 1938

Paul Nash - Black and white negative, ‘Monster Field’ - 1938

Paul Nash - Black and white negative, ‘Monster Field’ - 1938

Paul Nash - Black and white negative, ‘Monster Field’ - 1938

Robert Adams - Skogen

In his body of work 'Skogen' (Swedish for forest) American photographer Robert Adams explores the dense forests of his home state of Oregon. The images suggest and untouched wild, even primordial landscape. An eerie landscape suffocatingly packed with foliage, somewhere not to get lost. The title suggests a dark nordic fairy tale aesthetic. Tonally the work is rich, there are no extreme contrasts, all is subtle nuances of grey. The play of dappled light on the surface of branches and tree trunks becomes another texture in these tactile images. Each image within his Skogen series nestles somewhere between beauty and terror, simultaneously occupying both positions.

Adams landscapes are documentary in nature yet he believes the works agency is derived from combining multiple readings which we internally synthesise inform our own pereception.

'Landscape photography can offer us, I think, three verities—geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together . . . the three kinds of representation strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact—an affection for life.'
Robert Adams - Truth in Landscape - 2005

Many of his 'Skogen' images despite a wealth of detail are still very readable spaces. However at points Adam's creates more abstracted compositions, managing to capture a complexity with one pictorial layer which I have only managed with two or three!  

Seeing these images inspires and reminds me to visit nearby ancient oak woods at Butley corner in Suffolk. Time permitting I would like to experiment layering photographs of these old giants to be included in my growing set of prints.  

Robert Adams - Stika spruce, Capo Blanco State, Oregon

Robert Adams - Clatsop Country Oregon

Robert Adams - Clearcut, Clatsop Country, Oregon

Ansel Adams 

Ansel Adams is best known for his photographs of grand open vistas, big skys, wide rivers, and great mountains of the American west. A romantic sublime of untouched wilderness largely absent of the presence of man. 

In the following images Adams turns his lens under the earth, documenting magestic and vast rock formations found inside cave structures. These are other worldly spaces, dramatic lighting within the caves creating strong contrasts abstracting further these already foreign spaces. Ansel's work is often characterised by space, lots of it. But here the space is compressed and claustrophobic. The detail on the surface of the rock is caught by the stong light sources, forcing the image to be considered as 'Haptic' surface rather than 'optical' space. Formidable staligmites/ stalactites act like hellish mightly redwoods. Where Ansel Adams path to the sublime is usally through awe and beauty here it is through awe and terror.

Ansel Adams - Giant domes

Ansel Adams - In the queens chamber

Ansel Adams - Onyx formations

No comments:

Post a Comment