Part 1 – Research.

Landscape Photographer’s practice

Susan Derges.

This photographer works in my region of the country. I am really quite excited, as her abstract aesthetic of water and reflections is something that I have been drawn to and had already started experimenting with. Water provides such a transient ‘scape’ that is a mystical and ominous aesthetic as a subject matter. I think that we are all drawn to the paradox of water that is both a life sustainer and killer. Commercialism has ensured that the “Old Spice’ and “Guinness” spectacles draw the consumers eye and thus has ensured that the general population has fixed ideas on what ‘sublime’ my be and how it is presented.

Some of her work is connotative of being in a dream like state and in other images I feel immersed in the water. The aesthetic is often abstract and in her shoreline work explores the transient nature of water – the bird like view makes the scale difficult to discern at first.

Her Eden work is something that I have begun to conceptualize myself – further looking at the transient and delicate detail that occurs all around us but somehow gets unnoticed or even dismissed as boring! This style of working appeals to me though as hyper vigilance makes me hyper aware of the everyday ‘awesomeness’ and I often stop the person next to me and say “JUST. LOOK. AT. THAT” and my awe is met with a disinterested “It’s a muddy puddle Claire?”

I will continue to refer back to her work as I begin to work out what I want to produce for assignment 6. Last accessed 19/02/2016

Milo Newman.


I am not feeling this body of work. There are only three sets to look at and each photo in the sets are so similar that they could almost be the same. It is good to see the abstract take on the landscape and I am sure that it will feed into work that I do but I’m not really left with any sort of emotion. Last accessed 19/02/2016

 David Bachekder – Tidelands.

 This body of work is one that demonstrates the intrinsic beauty of what we find at our feet and that we don’t need the vast vistas to be in the presence of the sublime. The photograph extracts the ‘scene’ from the environment in a similar way to Derges shoreline work in that we are not sure what the scale is that we are looking at for a while. Are we looking at vast deserts from an aerial perspective? Actually, no, it is at our feet. I am very taken with the textures and colour of this body of work that is found on the link below. Last access of 21/02/2016


 Grayson Perry – The Vanity of Small Differences.


went to see Grayson Perry’s exhibition in Bath today. Six exquisitely vibrant and detailed wall tapestries hung. The tapestries depicted the life and times of a character called Tim; from his birth through to his death.

Each tapestry contained a riot of connotative signifiers and references to biblical stories and influences from various historic artists such as Gainsborough. It was overwhelming at first glance.

his body of work explored the broad landscape of a boy called Tim. He is born to a single mum from a working class background. Tim’s mum remarries and her ability to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ means everything to her thus becoming an aspiring materialistic / consumerist middle class family. Tim turns his back on it when he meets his girlfriend from a bourgeoisie family and as a result he ends up a corporate success. He evolves into ‘new money’ gentry and then winds up eventually in a car crash and dies in the gutter. The overriding question is ‘what was his life all about and was it all worth it?’ The twist in the tale is that his girlfriend who was originally horrified at Tim’s family and upbringing leads Tim unwittingly on a path to become part of the capitalist machine that drives the working classes to aspire as they do. I should know; I come from Tim’s background!

It is a very British look at the class system, consumerism and broad-brush common story of the ‘barrow boy turned Alan Sugar’. It was an unapologetic mix of landscape juxtaposed with documentary story telling. I unexpectedly thoroughly enjoyed the gaudy tapestries and will happily visit again at some point. Last accessed 20/02/2016

‘Whatever The Weather’

Exhibition at RAMM – Exeter.

 This was a very timely exhibition to have been held by my local museum. There was a mix of 19th century sublime pictorial seascapes and contemporary installations; one of which looked at time and transitions.

The contemporary installation was by Prof Susan Collins (Slade, UCL). The blurb on this link explains that she was inspired by traditional art depictions to create this work. The installation is streamed live footage of the ocean that changes pixel by pixel across the screen.

I suppose that the aim is to encourage the viewer to notice the subtle changes of lights and form of the ocean across the day.

However…the screen was very pixelated and the aesthetic looked like poor CCTV footage. I’d be more inclined to hop in a car and go and watch the changes of light and form of the ocean for myself.   I might be missing something but there was little literature to point out any error in my thinking.

Though, what I did do was sit there and ponder how I might tackle elements of time and transitions for assignment 6. I considered time and relativity on a human level. A prolonged period of time could be several hours. In terms of the history of the universe, there really isn’t much difference between an hour and a year. Many changes can happen within an hour and few changes can take place in a year – depending on what the landscape is and the effects the season have on it. Perhaps condensing time but taking multiple photographs and merging them into one photograph – the extended time being a day.

The other benefit of this exhibition was to stand in front of oil painting representation of sublime seascapes. I wanted to see if the paintings could induce in me a feeling of fear; at least on behalf of any people also depicted in the seascapes. I tried to view it through them through the eyes of somebody from the era who might not have ever seen the sea or seen any depictions of the sea (unless they worked as staff in a house on a large country estate).

From that perspective, I think that a large oil painting could trigger emotions associated with the sublime. The most powerful paining was that of a sail ship floundering in a horrific storm. The ship looms large in the frame and the lifeboat is barely noticed beneath the hull of the boat and partially concealed by the towering waves. A shaft of light illuminates the ship is a highly effective way.

From my point of view, I can appreciate the composition and aesthetics on an emotional level but a landscape hasn’t ever triggered responses associated with Sublime and maybe this is symptomatic of the abundance of imagery and opportunities to travel that we now have. I suppose that the closest I might have come to an overwhelming response is with the emerging Hubble photography – new revelations about our universe.

Claude Cahun:

I admit that if I have read anything about Cahun previously, the memory escapes me. I decided to drop into my local arts centre to see what, if anything, was being exhibited. I could hardly believe my eyes! Not knowing even the name of the artist at this point, I found myself immersed in a gallery alone with upward of 50 self portraiture of equal size, space and height mounted around the walls.

With the first ten images, I became aware that this body of work was unique. The prints were apparently from film and had a surreal aesthetic to them. I was a little confused at first about if this was portraiture of a man, a woman, one person or two. I had to re-examine physical attributes to realise that this was one person of interminable sex. I decided not to visit the reception to look at the name of the artist but instead I tried to decode the body of work.

This was definitely a body of work created over a period of time that was set against her landscape of living in the age he/she did and wrestling/ exhibiting his/her identity. What is his/her identity?

It was a fascinating body of work born out an equally fascinating context that I could have used viewing during Context and Narrative. The narrative is eaier to discern as a complete body of work – individual images are varying in ambiguity. I probably did see the odd image from the set online but this is testament to the importance of actually visiting exhibitions when the opportunity presents.

It turns out that Claude Cahun has been a fascinating artist who was at first shunned by the surrealist movement as being too ‘wacky’. Her work does slide into the postmodern era though and is still highly relevant. Once I am back on documentary coursework, I will come back to his/her body of work Last accessed 21/02/2016


 Perspectives on Place – Jess Alexander.

 This is possibly the most digestible ‘essential read’ that I have had the pleasure of reading to date. It is a hybrid of technical, historical and contemporary discourse relevant to the genre of landscape. The book is packed full of critical debate and referenced practitioners. The topics aren’t new but the reading isn’t quite so dense as some other academic books and therefore I am more able to digest the learning points.

From the perspective of ‘sublime and beautiful’, the topic reoccurs through the chapters but is largely covered in the chapter ‘Defining Nature’. The chapter looks at the historic philosophical evolution and how that influence has continued to define what we understand nature to be. The chapter looks at contemporary landscape and topographical exploration.

With regards to beauty, Edmund Burke’s philosophy is cited – his dismissal of the ‘geometry of beauty’ and the implication that beauty is actually a matter of taste.



Penelope Umbrico’s body of work is looked at from the perspective of universally pleasing things I.e. sunsets. J.A. poses questions about the universal fascination of the sun.

Paul Hill’s body of work is based the landscape of the Peak District. The work diverges from the traditional panoramic style. The images examine the politics of how one type of landscape is deemed more important that another and the fight for the right to access the land. Hill invites us to look beyond the aesthetics to wider issues of landscape.

Keith Arnatt’s work looks at the sub category of ‘areas of outstanding natural beauty’ (ANOB) – he choses to take very mundane photographs of the AONB.

Looking at issues of the picturesque, cautions of idealized representations are aired. This idealization sanitizes the wider issues of the landscape – much as I alluded to in Exercise 1. Living where I do, I really do get a grasp of this. Gilpin’s compositional representations of the landscape were heavily influenced by ‘rules’ of composition.

John Constable v. Peter Kennard.

 Subverting the picturesque. The Hay Wain’s idealized rhetoric considered against the reality. Kennard later puts his own twist on the painting.

The Sublime:

 The history of philosophy of the sublime from Longinus (literature based) to Edmund Burke’s essay (I have this essay and will read it soon) is spoken about.

Sublime = binary opposite to beauty.

Casper David Friedrich’s painting is shown as an example of being in the presence of the sublime.

Consideration of trying to represent sublime is covered here and how it could be deemed as false as trying to represent idealised beauty.

 Edmund Burke spoke about the psychology of the sublime. J.A. also looks at Freud’s research into the psyche of those suffering with psychological illnesses is mentioned and how the psyche of such people could be accessed; fear rising from the psyche that comes about from the anticipation of an even that we can’t control.

“Being displaced by, or being at the mercy of, a force greater than ourselves.” P.74.

Reading that is underway:

Liz Well’s – Land Matters.

Burke – A philosophical Enquiry.

Lectures: Last accessed on 19/02/2015

 The Sublime Experience. Two hour academic discussion on what sublime is. Can art induce sublime?



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