The aerial view

The aerial view

The view from above is magical, it has to be, some great works of art – the White Horse of Uffington, Nazca lines, Aboriginal sand painting are aerial.

White Horse, Uffington
White Horse, Uffington, June 2013

The White Horse can only be seen from the air,
but like a Zen garden you sink into the presence
of what you can see, a still eye, sinewy back,
abstract legs galloping across the hill.

The sculpture is probably an ancient machine
for all those possibilities of worship, magic, supplication
and celebration sculpted by antlers tearing the turf
to reveal bone-dust of the past racing away.


George Steinmetz uses a motorised hang-glider to take amazing shots.

george-steinmetz Bet Giyorgis church in Lalibla, Ethiopia.
George Steinmetz, Bet Giyorgis church, Lalibla, Ethiopia.

Before discovering him today I was very familiar with the work of Arthus- Bertrand. Earth From Above (1999) is a compilation of aerial photographs from a five-year airborne odyssey across five continents.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Yann Arthus-Bertrand

I saw a Richard Woldendorp show at Boutwell Draper Gallery, Sydney, in 98, it was amazing, abstract salt pans from the air, I wished I had money to buy one. He works with several pilots. The great painter Fred Williams was a fan.

Richard Woldendorp fields
Richard Woldendorp

“In these large, finely printed images Woldendorp gives each landscape its spiritual and artistic due. There is no attempt to achieve glib, graphic compositions, only a sureness of approach that suggests a deepening love for the landscape. Remarkably for a man born in the Netherlands in 1927 and who arrived in Australia in 1951, Woldendorp has fashioned a truly Australian vision, finding a sonority with the aerial aesthetic that dominates Aboriginal landscape painting.” Robert McFarlane (‘From the sublime to the everyday’, SMH July 27 2004)

Talking to Barbara Weir from Utopia at her show, Terry Cutcliffe’s gallery at Addison Rd Gallery, July 2004) about a lovely painting in muted pink, white and blue, with one patch of red in horizontal warped bands. She said she had been thinking about this painting while flying over her land, an aerial perspective of a ‘natural’ aerial perspective.

Dorothy Napangardi, Dancing Up Country, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2003 was a wonderful show of minimal colour and maximum power, showing aerial views of her homeland Northwest of Alice Springs in the Tanami Desert and tales of women ancestors creating as they sang and danced across country.

“The relationship between painting and culture is that it allows people to get a chapter of a particular part of the story. If you put all these paintings together you’d have one big mud map where you could then trace and put a map over the country, and if you actually have a look at an aerial photograph along with the paintings of these particular sites, you get such a surprise to see how uncanny they are, so alike the country and the images, except we will have certain iconographies in bits which were our storylines you know.” Malcolm Jagamarra (Malcolm Jagamarra, A Brush With Landscape, A 3-part series presented by Julie Copeland, ABC Radio, August, 1998).


Once you could look out of long haul flights, now blinds down  re ordered as everyone switches into the inflight entertainment packages

I used to write poems about the view ( extract from ‘Crossing the Bight’)

If Cimabue and Giotto believe their paintings
and a third of people surveyed today
they could float outside my window, searching this patch
of space, violent perturbations with no optical effects
or visible cause, for angels.

Is this what art aspires to?

Psychic encounters with the unknown,
making substance visible?
Or seeking explanations, why there is movement?



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