Monday, July 4, 2011

Reading: Landscape and Western Art by Malcolm Andrews

As soon as I signed up for the course, I began accumulating reading and viewing material to broaden my understanding of the subject.  Mostly these are photo books by artists I am interested in or those recommended in the reading list, however, I also picked up a few works taking a more general view of landscape art, starting with "Landscape and Western Art" by Malcolm Andrews:

Landscape and Western Art (Oxford History of Art)

The book provides a good overview of the tradition of landscape art within the context of fine art and painting in particular.  It's an interesting read and certainly a worthwhile grounding in some of the key concepts that underly how we came about to think of the world as landscape rather than mud and rain.  How landscape went from simply a container for religious or allegorical content to becoming prized for its ownmerits, is an enjoyable story with as much political as artistic meaning.  However, the overall impression is one of a progression from one version of a romatic vista to another, whether the untamed wilderness or the classical ruin.  The focus is on landscape as LAND, and by this I mean land that is sculpted and managed by those wealthy enough to own it.  Clearly painters must work for someone and a land owners money is as good as anyones, however, what I missed in the book was the development of 20th century landscape art, particularly photography, but also urban themes such as Lowrie.  Stranger still the final chapter leaps into consideration of using the landscape as art, through large scale installations that modify the landscape.  Seems almost orphaned from the rest of the text, a segue via photography would have made more sense to my mind.

The book seems to reinforce the content within the course notes, that landscape is the study of nature, although how a country estate can be seen as nature eludes me.  My greatest struggle remains the gradual process of working out what landscape means to me, the clear implication of the course notes is that landscape is green stuff with some brown and grey stuff, attached to something blue.  Oh and each of these colours needs to be found in nature, as if any British landscape outside of a few remote valleys could ever be described as natural.

What the book did do for me, though was to contextualize all that I dislike about most landscape art.  I am still working on the fringes of the city, looking for contrasts between the green of the countryside and the grey of the city, this book has pushed me further into the city, not out of it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment