Landscapades ~ adventures in landscape, opening speech
Exhibition @ Blue Mountains Heritage Centre (NPWS), End of Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, Launch 2:30 Sunday 6th Oct[I thought I’d post this after a friend who was present said it was inspiring!]
First of all I need to thank . . . .
We are in a beautiful World Heritage area, Gundungurra country, and here I should thank the Aboriginal elders past and present who cared for this most amazing environment.
I’ll just take a moment to talk about landscape art. We take landscape images for granted but they are quite a recent development in Western art. The Dutch invented domesticity at the same time as landscape painting, a genre whose opportunity arose through Protestant iconoclasm, a new urban middle class as a ready market, and nationalism being under Spanish occupation.
Landscape was beginning to be established in England in 1640s as a separate branch of painting. At the time, Jacob van Ruisdael was the leading Dutch landscape painter and influenced the English school. Gainsborough first met a van Ruisdael landscape as a young apprentice in London a hundred years later. He copied Dutch landscapes but they were not big sellers, so he moved to Bath and made a motza as a portrait painter. In another hundred years Constable was copying Ruisdaels, much sought after 19th C England, and after showing in Paris he influenced the Barbizon school, the Impressionists and on we go.
You could say landscape painting reached its height in the 19th C as artists abandoned history and classical landscapes for plein-air painting, working out-of-doors directly from nature with energy and spontaneity. Landscape painting is sometimes looked down as the Sunday painter’s genre, pretty but often banal. Now we have Land Art, Eco-art (Andy Goldsworthy arranging leaves in a stream) and video art, but painting and photographing landscape is still very popular – why?
Just go down the road a hundred meters to Govett’s Lookout – it is a sublime landscape looking into the Grose Valley, but how we see it is influenced by poetry and art and photographs. There is no raw perception, we interpret what we see; representations and real life interact. Landscape connects to nature and is expressive or we may be hardwired to appreciate formal qualities landscapes may possess – light for one, horizontal lines, curves, certain colour combinations. Landscape offers immense range for visual artists with so such diversity of scale, shapes and colours, so many possibilities of composition. And as Cezanne said, “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.”
At this point I should admit that I am responsible for the title. For landscape diversity just look at these walls: Bronwyn Rodden is showing prints that ask for attention on behalf of the bush. Janet Reinhardt lives in the mountains and her landscapes of the mists, rivulets and waterfalls, show tonal delights expressing the watery world of what most see as dry sandstone deeply fissured. Susie Harris also lives in the Blue Mountains and her work here shows eroded escarpments, beautiful abstract curves and lines, rich in colour.
John Bennett is showing photographs from China, the Baltic, Mid-North-Coast and Katoomba. Nature is an infinite resource but we no longer imagine an Arcadian dream. Poems are attached to most of these images, nature is the theme, whether a garden in Suzhou, the oldest in the world maintaining most of its original features to islands in the Baltic, taken two months ago.
Please have a chat to the artists they would love to talk to you about their work. I’ll finish with a shot poem that belongs to the panorama ‘Dawn, Three Sisters’
As the light reaches past the Three Sisters
and bounces off sheer cliffs, Sulphur-crested cockatoos
throw themselves off the edge, letting go, tumbling
like plastic bags, shrieking with the exuberance of gravity
then their wings straighten, tails flex and they loop
accurately onto a branch of Blue Mountain Ash.
This is the narrative the opens morning.