Walking the Land

Ian Brown’s series “Walking the Land” (2007) (1) really struck me because it echoes a lot of my own work and interests. My last two assignments (for I&P and Landscape) have related to the experience of walking in the countryside, and this is where I most naturally gravitate towards with my camera. I have also experimented with layering, in relation to my final assignment of I&P and prompted by the work of Idris Khan:

ethereal

At that time I noted: “I really like this effect, it has a sense of mystery, reminding me of fairy tales, of Narnia. It is something to keep in mind for another project“. This literal blurring of fantasy and reality is something that keeps creeping into my work – my final assignment for C&N (where I used a digitised version of the Orton technique) was in a similar vein – and this is the basis of my proposal for assignment two. I think this is why Brown’s work caught my attention; it has that sense of mystery and magic about it, yet it is firmly rooted in reality. When I see these images I find myself picturing what I believe is a “real” landscape; a swathe of bluebells or the deep woods. Yet I am not visualising any particular place, I am creating an imaginary landscape based upon my own wanderings, and visual influences from television and books. What I see is not Brown’s landscape or my own, but a conflation of the two.

In an interesting essay on the work, Alexander suggests that: “This process works as a filter to remove visual clichés of romantic landscape painting and photography” (2). Although I can see his point, in that there is no detail in which to find the three cows, the hay cart, the trickling stream etc, I think that the work exploits a different sort of visual cliche, in which particular sorts of landscapes trigger particular emotions. The bluebells are uplifting, the dark wood is threatening, the ragwort field epitomises Britain in springtime. These images would not work if our brains could not draw from them an experience; perhaps the cliche isn’t a visual one but an experiential one.

In terms of representing a journey, Brown’s work is a very pragmatic way of condensing space and time into a single image; it is in this sense impressionistic in its effect. However I do not find myself getting an “impression” of Brown’s journey, rather a reflection of my own. That is not a criticism of the imagery, more a reminder to myself that landscape is very much in the mind (not the eye) of the beholder so there is little point in trying too hard to guide the viewer in interpreting my own work – I must leave space for the viewer to find their own interpretation.

 

(1) http://www.beardsmoregallery.com/exhibitions/walking-the-land/ (accessed 18th July 2017)

(2) https://perspectivesonplace.wordpress.com/resources/image-layer-filter/ (accessed 18th July 2017)

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