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Entries in landscape (93)


Wayne Thiebaud: Dark Country City, 1988

Wayne Thiebaud. Dark Country City, 1988. Soft ground etching with aquatint and drypoint 21.9 x 32.2

There is something so geological about Thiebaud's view of the city: buildings and roads are like shards of rock, as vertiginous as cliff faces.  These are drawings where the x-axis has been multiplied by 10, the unbuilt landscape is mysterious — an enormous clamshell holding itself to itself, the road is both brave and intimate: a tremendously exciting place to live, as San Francisco is.  Thiebaud introduces a powerful scale with which to identify one's place in this city way beyond the vocabulary of urbanism.  The city is like a Krazy Kat mesa: a figure in the landscape that one lives up against.


more Thiebaud


Wayne Thiebaud. Heart Ridge, 2011. Hard ground etching with drypoint. 12 x 9 on 17 x 13. Crown Point Press

No surprise then, that he says Krazy Kat was always an influence. 


more summer

Looks like Castle Mountain and the highway to Banff before the Trans-Canada was built.  It is paved; even in the 1960s most of the Trans-Canada through the mountains was still gravel.  It certainly reduced speed.  What I do now in a day used to take two at the minimum, three if one was being leisurely.

The station wagon looks roughly like a mid-50s Pontiac, but people kept cars longer then. 


living by quarries

Alan Bennet wrote about visiting Temple Newsam, a 17th century house just outside Leeds, when he was nine or ten, in the London Review of Books, 8 November 2012 :
Visiting Temple Newsam was always a treat, as it still is more than half a century later.  Back in 1947, though, with the country in the throes of the postwar economic crisis, the push was on for more coal and the whole of the park in front of the house was given over to open-cast mining, the excavations for which came right up to the terrace.  From the state rooms you looked out on a landscape as bleak and blasted as a view of the Somme, an idyll, as it seemed to me then, irretrievably lost, and young though I was I knew this.

This is the Ordnance Survey Map for 1945-1947 that shows Temple Newsam: clearly the house sat on the top of a hill, surrounded by woods and collieries and remarkably close to the sewage works, canals, and railway line of Skelton.   

BT Ordnance Survey Map, 1945-1947, sheet 44Bennett continues:  But of course I was wrong.  It wasn't irretrievable and to look at the grounds today one would have no idea that such a violation had ever occurred.  And it had occurred, too, with even greater devastation at other country houses south of Leeds: Nostell Priory was similarly beleaguered, as was Wentworth Woodhouse, both …, smack in the middle of coal-bearing country…

Yorkshire has lost more large houses than any other English county — 253 and mostly in the 1950s, usually by fire or insufficient wealth.  This is yet another back story, or rather future story, behind Downton and all the lovely dresses.


David Nash: wood

Anne Purkiss, photographer. David Nash in his studio, 1999.

Anne Purkiss started in 1985 to photograph members of the Royal Academy of Arts.  This one, of David Nash was probably taken in 1999 when he became a member.  He is in his studio next to a mining tip in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a Victorian slate mining town in Gwynedd, Wales.  It is no surprise that with the decline of the use of slate, there would have been many industrial spaces surplus to requirements; many of which would make capacious studios.  

His material isn't slate, it is trees. From wikipedia's description of Wooden Boulder: 'begun in 1978, this work involves a large wooden sphere carved by Nash in the North Wales landscape and in 1982 left there to weather. Over the years, the boulder has slipped, rolled and sometime been pushed through the landscape following the course of streams and rivers until finally it was last seen in the estuary of the River Dwyryd. It was thought to have been washed out to sea but, after being missing for over five years, the boulder reappeared in June 2009. Indications are that it had been buried in sand in the estuary.'   

How heroic.  

David Nash. Wooden Boulder, 1978-2009


Isabelle Hayeur: in the middle of nowhere

L'île, 1998, Paysages incertains / Uncertain Landscapes, 107 cm X 244 cm / 42" X 96"

Isabelle Hayeur:  Au milieu de nulle part

As part of Paris Photo at the Canadian Cultural Centre
5, rue de Constantine 75007 Paris
November 14, 2012 to March 22, 2013
Opening reception on November 13, 6h30 pm

From Isabelle Hayeur's press release:

"in the middle of nowhere", which, come to think of it, raises the idea of a strange encounter between geometry and geography. A paradoxical expression that has a wide range of connotations (from irony to poetry, from disenchantment to contemplation), it is used to refer to an object or a place from a relatively unplaceable space. Here, photography demonstrates its power to represent space-time continuums outside our everyday world, outside its flux, noise and inattention. The subjects seem to be uprooted, deprived of rooting in nature, of links to the earthly continuum. For Pascal Grandmaison, Isabelle Hayeur and Thomas Kneubühler, the framing is a crucial process that proposes another way of dividing up reality to take us elsewhere. Not towards some form of exoticism but, on the contrary and more colloquially, to the middle of nowhere.

« Au milieu de nulle part » est une expression qui pointe une chose ou un emplacement isolé, qui sort de l'ordinaire ou qui fait saillie de manière inopinée à partir de l'immensité plane. Littéralement une situation insituable – une absurdité, un paradoxe, une tromperie, un leurre, un éclat – qui représente un objet fabuleux pour la photographie. Les photographes Pascal Grandmaison, Isabelle Hayeur et Thomas Kneubühler, réunis ici pour la première fois, ont en commun cet intérêt manifeste pour ce qui n'est pas censé être au centre de l'attention. Par le cadrage photographique ils proposent un autre découpage du réel pour nous emmener ailleurs. Non pas vers quelque forme d'exotisme mais, bien au contraire et plus familièrement, « Au milieu de nulle part ».


Adrian Utley: Croft Castle, Sonic Journey

John Minton, filmmaker. Adrian Utley, composer. Sonic Journey, Croft Castely, Herefordshire, 2012.

The National Trust in Britain has commissioned a number of artists to do works about specific landscapes, both rural and urban.  Croft Castle has a number of ancient trees, including a thousand-year old oak, a triple chestnut avenue and 'mysterious ancient hawthorns', that magical tree. 

If you click on the image above, from the film, it will take you to the film and the soundtrack.  It is about 15 minutes long.  And if you just want to listen to the music, here it is:


37.2: Arteology

ARTEOLOGY / installation / wood, 120x100m / "Festival Arts Nature Horizons 2012" / Puy de Serveix, France / 2012 / built.

37.2 [very hot], Atelier de Microarchitecture, is Francesca Bonesio and Nicolas Guiraud, an architect and a photographer, based in Paris.

Arteology is a 37.2 project in the Auvergne: a skeleton that might be found had the Puy de Serveix, a volcanic hill, been an ancient living thing – which it was of course, but had it been an ancient living animal with vertebrae and ribs.  The scale is large, 100m from ridge to base, the scale of the enigmatic chalk reliefs in England: the Uffington White Horse, for example.

From 37.2's description of the project, roughly, 'the volcanic region of the Auvergne in the massif du Sancy seems both grand and sacred.  Our project is to stir the soil, to interpret the form of a ridge, to send a piton into the rock to see, as if by magic, the art in this singular form of nature.
As artists, our arteological search is to reveal nature's memory, rekindling the fire, the fear, the mystery, the questing metaphysics at the heart of volcanic activity

ARTEOLOGY / installation / wood, 120x100m / "Festival Arts Nature Horizons 2012" / Puy de Serveix, France / 2012 / built.The aims are immense, the project is simple: wood recovered from construction, no challenging structure, but rather 'it registers as a drawing, a layer, an intervention in the landscape, a poetry reading, a phantasmagoric of nature'.

We have a new call for articles out now, for On Site 29: geology.  We are interested in projects of this kind, where land is reinterpreted in a way that connects us with a deep past. 


Enrico Scaramellini: Wardrobe in the Landscape

Enrico Scaramellini, Wardrobe in the Landscape. Northern Italian Alps, 2012. photo by Marcello Mariana.

Scaramellini says, 'Great is the land, the landscape: small is the place, the space.'
Plans and beautiful photos of this house set between two barns are on dezeen: it appears to borrow a room on the second floor from the adjacent barn, and the house flares slightly to the back, but the idea of a house as a door and a window is completely magical – a child's view of the world.


Richard Long on Box Hill

the Guardian's caption: Land-mark ... a cyclist passes Richard Long's artwork Box Hill Road River, in Surrey. Photograph: Brian Cleckner/National Trust

Richard Long's centre line on the zig-zag portion going up Box Hill in Surrey, part of the cycling track for the Olympics: evidently it was inspired by the graffiti chalked on the roads during the Tour de France, which, now that I've looked it up, isn't that interesting. 

Here he is talking about laying down the road paint, like a thief in the night.  an authorised thief in the night, with a team of helpers. 



A clifftop campsite in Crimdon Park, County Durham, England. 1946

Okay, it is 1946, everyone camping here, the men at least, just spent a lot of time in tents in north Africa, in Burma, on the plains of Lincolnshire, but this is the summer holidays, in England.  The war is over.  Wouldn't one think that anarchy would be a welcome release and tents were higgledy-piggledy?  Clearly not. 

The English once were a sociable people, not for them the extreme privacy of camping in a BC government or National Park campsite, all winding roads through the woods and deep seclusion on one's little clearing with picnic bench and firepit.  Sometimes it would be nice – and feel safe – to be just one more tent in an array such as this one.

and gosh, look at all the army bell tents.  One wonders if the release of army surplus after the war spurred on the development of mass camping and campsites.  As a kid, our tent was a huge Hudson's Bay Company canvas tent with an extension: not army surplus, but so capacious. It smelled like summer.


Wade Hemsworth: the wild goose

The gentle Wade Hemsworth at 76, singing our other national anthem.

And a gentle life, on wikipedia


Thomas Pole's library

Thomas Pole (attributed). In the Library, 1805 c. Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Rear Face of 14 St James's Square, Bristol.

Thomas Pole was a doctor in Bristol from 1802-1829.  He was born in Philadelphia to English parents, went back to England as a young man and stayed, studying medicine, specialising in obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics.  He lived at 14 St James' Square in Bristol, this is his daughter in the library at the back of the house looking on to the servants' area in front of the kitchen in the low building on the right.
Pole was a Quaker, and a man evidently of great tolerance and wide interests.  He started an adult education school in 1812, wrote a textbook of anatomy and illustrated it himself, he was a member of the American Philosophical Society, and he painted architecture and landscapes.

There is a great calm in the library, all pale jade and water-coloured shadows, the industrious girl copying things out of books, mind busy in such a still room.  The view out the window is like a painting, full of light and a separate perspective system, hung on the wall of a soft, dim room.  Aspect and prospect: controlled, orderly, infinitely pleasing.



Hans Hildenbrand. German trenches, Alsace, 1915.

It was often said that when a German trench was captured the British were struck by how well they were constructed.  Hans Hildenbrand was a photographer from Stuttgart who had been experimenting with colour film since 1911, and had been sent to record the progress at the front, mostly in Alsace and Champagne.  We don't often see the other side, but there is a new book out, Endzeit Europa, colour photographs of WWI, and a selection of images is on der Spiegel online.

Just in this small cross section of one trench there is order and hierarchy, massive protection compared to the sandbags at Vimy: enough infrastructure to remove the sense of being caught in a hole dug in the ground.  One of the Airborne Regiment, after it had disbanded, told me how much time he had spent in Somalia, lying in a very shallow depression in the dust beside the highway leading to Belet Uen, covered only by his tarp.

How much 'building' does it take to protect, without giving a false sense of protection.  These German troops seem very confident, but these are posed photographs, not taken in the heat of battle.  They too left their trenches for that darkling plain that was the no-man's land. 


higher ground

Rebuilt trenches at Vimy RidgeNot sure where I found this image, it has been on my desktop for months.  It presents the structure of the trenches, no long shots or avenues, the depth, the configuration, all of which take on, today, the appearance of a land art installation.  However, like yesterday's map of the Gallipoli Peninsula, there is high ground, full of threat, and there are valleys, where one is. 

It is, I suppose, psychogeography 101, that being visual beings, we like being high up in the landscape so that we can see what is below us.  Why else would new subdivisions have names such as Aspen Heights, and, in west Calgary, the confusing Valley Ridge? which is on the side of a valley, but clearly has aspirations.

JB Jackson's essay, 'Landscape Seen by the Military' compared the fields of war in Europe during WWII where he was a military intelligence officer, with peacetime land use: ordered, hierarchical, topographical.  He seemed to imply that war was just another social aspect of how we use land. I'm not sure about this relatively limp thesis, that we have pushed and shaped the land to map our sense of what is right and proper, and that the land has let us.  Well, we have pushed it around, but the land resists.  The trenches in farm fields in northern France were full of water for one thing: a high water table (which is what made them so fertile) and, in 1916, unusually bad weather.  The suicidal Gallipoli situation – the land was not the ANZAC's ally, nor was it for D-Day – again, men scrambling up beaches while batteries of guns at the top of the cliffs (whose erosion makes the beaches) fired down at them. 

Vitruvius has a whole section on the advantages of height: it is safer there.


Turner of Oxford

William Turner of Oxford. View of University Park Looking Towards New College, Oxford, after 1825. Watercolor over graphite on paper. 8 1/2 x 15 1/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Somehow completely in thrall to these horizontal landscapes this week.  This one so diagrammatic, one wonders if he was there at all.


winter in aberdeenshire, could be here

John Gardiner Crawford. Winter. n.d. Oil on masonite, 101 x 69 cm. The Scottish Gallery.Too much contact with landscape clearly makes one very abstract.


north wales in 1802

Cornelius Varley. Craig Goch, Moel Hebog, North Wales, 1802. Watercolor over graphite. 16.4 x 36.5 cm. The Metropolitan Museum, New York

This calm small watercolour of 1802 was done the year before Lusieri's Parthenon, below.  The description on the Metropolitan Museum website says that Varley left painting in favour of the development of optical instruments.  
Both are about seeing, the relationship between detail and sight, between recording and looking. 


Patrick Keiller's London, 1994

I've been waiting to see this again for years, since 1994 in fact:


Thibault's Rousseau project

Jean-Thomas Thibault. Project, a monument for Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the Jardin des Tuileries, watercolour 340x492 mm. Galerie Heim, Paris.

Found this image on Vulgare.  Thibault, 1757-1826, was a landscape painter and architect, trained under Boullée, went to Rome, built la Petite Malmaison for Josephine and restored the Palais de l'Elysée.  He taught at the Beaux-Arts from 1819 to 1827.  The monument itself is the sculpture in the centre of this small islet, but today we see the formal circle of trees first, the near druidic ceremony of the enclosed field.  Of course I see Alesia, again.