Exercise 1.1: Preconceptions

When I was a child my grandpa, an accomplished painter, taught me how to paint a landscape picture. Every time I visited it was the same picture – as I got older we embellished a little but the picture remained the same. It has been 25 years since I painted with him, but here is my very shabby rendition:


The sky was always blue, the fields were always green. There was always a blue stream running along the valley between the hills. Sheep always grazed, a clump of trees always graced the top of the hill, and birds always flew in the sky. A small farmhouse perched on the hill, with a windy path approaching it. Sometimes we added some low stone walls to mark out fields, or some spots of yellow to represent the daffodils in spring. On occasion there was even a rainbow, but never any rain. Never a motorway, nor even any people to spoil the view. It is a vision of a rural idyll – the “typical” British landscape painting (I say British because I suspect in other countries the vision is different, though equally idyllic, but that is pure guesswork).

Looking back now I realise that this was an ideal rather than a reality, but it was an ideal I was living – my grandparents did in fact live in this rural idyll (deepest darkest Wales ) – the only thing missing was the sunshine, but in my memories even that was a frequent visitor. When I think of landscape I see the area around my grandparents, where I spent my summers playing in fields and walking in the hills. My first experiments with photography were shot there when I was about thirteen (long before I realised that “photography” was what I was doing, noone in my family having any interest in cameras). Perhaps I need to revisit the area as part of this course – having not been for 20 years it would be interesting to see if it still fits with my idyllic recollections.


When it comes to painting, my ideas about landscape have changed little – I am guilty of still painting the ideal, whether it is snow capped mountains or pretty canal streets in Venice. However my photography takes a very different path – in my final assignment of I&P I touched on the fact that my escapes into “nature” are in fact walks along pre-determined paths and are in no way reflective of the true natural landscape (if such a thing really exists in this country). I am interested in the way we have shaped the landscape, both rural and urban, and what the landscape says about us, rather than in the aesthetic qualities of the landscape (though like anyone I am a sucker for a pretty view). I found in I&P that I prefer to explore my ideas through places rather than people, although people are at the heart of my imagery, and this is why I have chosen to study landscape for my first level 2 module.






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