June’s recent post about trying to gain a sense of personal expressiveness in one’s landscapes—which, on the face of it, are more about the place out there than the one in here—set off resonances. All the more so as I had just returned from a day in the mountains where I had gathered one of my more coherent set of photographs in a mode (style?) I feel I’ve been seeking for some time (all in one 10-minute stint, the only halt of the trip). And then her mentions of Wood and Hockney added to the echoing cacophony.
I’ve said before that I’ve never hit a comfortable stride in photographing the larger landscape. Most of my work has been on a smaller scale, such as my last-posted winter stream study. I’ve certainly been trying, but it has seldom felt right, the results veering from a postcard look—pretty but unoriginal—to boring.
Now I’m not claiming that the hot-off-the-memory-card images shown here are especially great, or exceptionally expressive, or reliable predictors of what future work will look like. But they did feel good in a way that generally eludes me. They do capture for me, albeit imperfectly, some aspects of landscape that I haven’t managed well in previous work. One of these is a kind of musicality, by which I mean rhythmic and flowing structure. Another is the pure pleasure of shapes, especially the interplay of positive and negative definitions of them.
If interested, you can find a few additional images in this Tepee Creek series on my web site.
I was particularly struck by June’s examples of other artists. I’m sure I’d seen Grant Wood’s landscapes before, but had forgotten them. A number seem to suggest a fascination like my own with trees as punctuation on the rising and falling land. See, for example, these Wood landscapes from the site June linked to:
June’s other model, David Hockney, is one I’ve been reading about lately in the Weschler book, True to Life, which includes discussion of the recent East Yorkshire landscapes, like the two shown below. Though not stylized like Wood’s paintings, the subjects certainly have much in common. (To view more of these Hockney’s at Annely Juda Fine Art, select “previous exhibitions” and scroll down until you see Hockney listed. Hockney has also been working on larger multi-canvas paintings in Yorkshire; see e.g. the video at La Louver.)
Both Wood and Hockney are more concerned with the domesticated environment than the relatively (but only relatively) wild one. I share their interest, and have also photographed in cropland areas, though I think I’ve done only a single A&P post on them. Naturally, these tend to provide more structured or rhythmic compositions than mountainscapes. In that sense, my lucky catch owes much to the genius of the place I was in.
My personal view of the landscape, to the extent it comes through, is conveyed most importantly by my selection of what’s in the frame. I think it’s not too strong to say that the structures delineated by the trees and other elements are created by the framing as much as by the varying patterns on the land. So what you see reflects my predilections as well as the facts of the place.
Is there a question in this? I’m not sure there is. Or maybe there are too many. At any rate, it’s one more installment in a neverending tale.