Monday, 18 July 2016

New starting points and eerie landscapes

Keywords: Palimpsest / Unquiet / Deep-time /

To create my large scale (A0) drawings I have been working from photographic reference originally used to create my charcoal animations. This reference comes from my local environment and includes images from Snape Maltings, Buckelsham Heath, Hemley, Walderingfield and Christchurch park. When creating drawings I'll work with one image at a time, slowly building up and stripping back layers to try and create visual complexity. Therefore the image evolves as it is being developed, there is no initial plan set out at the beginning to offer me an idea of the end result. Compositional decisions happen intuitively as the work progresses.

I began to consider how I might work from a different starting point, by initially layering reference images I may be able to better 'map' the direction of a drawing or painting. The 'bones' of the work could therefore be decided at an early stage. This may help to more quickly test compositional ideas  before getting to far into an image. I have found that sometimes as a drawing progresses and the hours of work gone into it mount I can become less inclined to take risks regarding the overall composition. However this new approach would shift the nature of the works aesthetics, visually layering  might become less evident, being relegated to the initial planning stages. While undecided as to the merits of this approach I began experimenting layering reference images.

Initial experiments with a photocopier involved the element of chance, sending a selection of images to print the same sheet was past two or three times through the machine to create a layering effect. I would also sometimes feed the paper through upside down to further confuse the image.

Encouraged by the visual complexities of these initial experiments I took my reference photographs into Photoshop. Layering digitally gave me more creative control to quickly test ideas.  Below is a selection of images from the first set made in this way.

From the resultant images the following observations or questions have emerged:

1) These images relate more directly to my earlier web like paintings produced during 'Concepts and Contexts' and 'Independent Arts Practice' modules. While the images do have focal points and operate more as stand alone images and not patterns pattern has definitely returned. The fine weblike or mesh of hand-drawn marks is replaced here with photographic lines of branches and bark textures, the visual detail of both works giving the eye an image to really search. Illusionistic space is deeper here than in these earlier works where the marks all seemed to sit closer to the surface of the picture plain. This is achieved through scale and perspective, in earlier paintings marks were produced from the same brush, this implied marks sat closely in relation to one another, here with fine capillary like branches juxtaposed with thicker tree trunks and arterial branches a deeper space is created. This appears most effective when the images are most confused, breaking down into abstraction.
The layering of different forest images also suggests a sense of time, a deep time of ecological processes.

Digital ink drawing from Au Courant animation 'Independent Arts Practice'

Ink drawing for 'Concepts and Contexts' installation 
Still from 'Concepts and Contexts' animation

2) With these recent experiments I feel I have more closely aligned my work with other artists associated with 'eerieness' within the British landscape. This is a concept I have recently become aware of after reading the article recommended by a fellow artist. This article by Robert MacFarlane sets out a definition and lineage of 'Eerie' british landscape art through the 20th and 21st centuries.

'A tradition of eeriness runs through British art of the 20th and 21st centuries. It runs, though, not as an overground river might – with a traceable and continuous surface route – but rather as groundwater runs; surging out here and there, springing up at times of heavy weather. For this eerie art has often emerged at or after times of crisis, martial or fiscal: during the economic collapses of the 1970s and 2000s, or in the years around and during the Second World War. There is no mystery to this pattern. The eerie represents a counter-narrative to the recognizable traditions of the picturesque and the pastoral in British place-art. Where the pastoral encodes order and comfort, the eerie registers dissent and unease. It is drawn to what Christopher Neve memorably called “unquiet landscapes,” and it is born of unquiet times.'
Robert Macfarlane - Eeriness: Tracing an Unquiet Tradition in British Landscape Art. - 2016

I see my work as 'uneasy', unquiet' landscapes, animations are agitated and disjointed. Images build, become obscured then are erased. Colour is absent, and hand-drawn marks appear quickly, gestural, and with force. Wether reading the work psychologically or ecologically they are about transition, liminality, thresholds, being and non being. Coming from and returning to the void. 

My drawings and recent photographic works are also becoming increasingly abstracted obscuring  landscapes as defined readable spaces. This also links to the concept of the 'eerie'

'The eerie is monstrous precisely because it will not demonstrate itself (to demonstrate, from the Latin demonstrare, meaning to show or reveal).'
Robert Macfarlane - Eeriness: Tracing an Unquiet Tradition in British Landscape Art. - 2016

The subject matter and themes of my work also tie closely with the concept of the eerie which MacFarlane sets out.  

'Certain key preoccupations are visible in modern British eerie art, returning across the decades (tropes as revenants). These recurrent motifs include trees, crops and foliage (especially elms and oaks); stones (often standing); fields and woods.... Its aesthetics include tangled undergrowth and the cross-hatch of branches, textures of fray and decay, echoes, hollows and shadows, concrete, bark and skin, skeuomorphism and mimicry. Intuition is preferred to positivism, mirage to transparency, repetition to progress.... All of it is animated by an understanding of landscape as a site of contest rather than of comfort.'
Robert Macfarlane - Eeriness: Tracing an Unquiet Tradition in British Landscape Art. - 2016

Looking at my work through the lens of a eerie british landscape I have discovered a parity with painters and film makers I had not considered as contextual references for my investigation. These practitioners include Paul Nash, Jeremy Miller, Louise K Wilson and Joanna Kirk. I will look to analyse work by these artists in future posts. 

3) These photographic experiments closely echo Mark Arron's recent digital web-like structures. We have both previously talked about a correlation between our work, however in some ways what we are doing is opposite. Mark looks to visualise 'BIG' data from social media and other contemporary technologial sources, in my own work the starting point is not data but nature. I see my work as concerning experince and perception of the world around us. The term data implies reductive systems in which information is compressed/summerised, in my work I seek to translate the 'RAW' of experince and perception more directly, Phenomenological experience resisting reduction into 0's and 1's.  Mark looks to establish a new language to reflect our changing culture in the technological present. In his work time is flattened, the future is now. In my work the time is stretched. Ecological deep time is juxtaposed alongside human time. My work is more an overview of the relationship between past, present, and future while Mark's work in more rooted in the immediacy of the present.

The sources material for are works couldn't be more different, while one is derived from digital data the other is from the landscape. However visually the images are similar, weblike structure both manipulated by the artist present intricate and complicated spaces. While one does appear slightly more 'organic' and one more 'vector' orientated the gap between the two is slight. Marks work speaks a whole new unknown language, in the twisted branches, tree trunks and leaves of my work there are glimpses of recognisable symbols for the viewer to hold onto.  

4) The final question these new experiments raise is are they starting points or outcomes? The photographic images have a quality which I will not and could not! reproduce as drawing or painting. Both the detail of these images, the spaces they contain, and sense of time they evoke in many ways accomplish what I have set out to do with drawing. The only thing missing is the explicit awareness of the artists hand, but is this needed?

No comments:

Post a Comment