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I’ve just sent my third assignment for landscape to my tutor. Here is a link [https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ja4c501eesy8erc/CF-tL9J89U] to the Dropbox folder that contains all the relevant pictures as well as the accompanying text. I will also put the final set of pictures into a folder on Flickr. The assignment is a very open one, simply requiring eight landscape-based pictures with a linking theme. Those who’ve looked at this blog recently may recognise some of the pictures as the sky images taken during a recent journey to Tanzania. I had initially thought of using another project for assignment three, but these pictures have taken a lot of my time and energy in recent months and represent a reasonably coherent body of work, and on reflection I decided to use those. My other project will continue but it was feeling too artificial to require it to turn into a set of themed pictures – it’s an exploratory thing which feels best left to progress as it needs to. You may see it here someday and you may not. An additional consideration in using these was that I want to move on with this course: I hope to submit it for July assessment (final handing –in deadline is 15th June) and so need to get my skates on and not set off on another diversion. A separate post will set out my thinking on the year to come.
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The sky pictures leave me feeling rather philosophical. Because they are so much less definite and detailed than most of my work – less tangible – there is a limited amount to be said about each picture, and so I have explored the ideas and feelings that attach to this work for me. One core idea that has come back to me over and over again as I considered the pictures is how they represent in many ways an idea or an illusion. Unlike my houses and trees you could never touch the subject of these pictures.
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Some years ago I went on holiday to Lake Como. The lake is surrounded by high dark mountains and my hotel room looked out on these. I spent hours staring at the mountains from all angles and in all lights. I was haunted by their beauty and strangeness but at the same time driven mildly to distraction by the thought that I could never get to that beauty. I knew that if I went to the mountains what I could see wouldn’t be there – the misty darkness was a consequence of atmospheric conditions, haze and light, and would certainly vanish a long time before I could get close enough to touch a rock. This feeling began to oppress me over time and this memory has never completely left me. I suspected then, as I do now, that the mountains are like all transcendently beautiful or ideal things in the end – something we may long for but never quite possess, as somehow the harder you try to acquire or touch or feel it, the more it vanishes.
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The ideal of perfect peacefulness or transcendence seems to me most powerful as a dream or a half-glimpsed but long-remembered vision of something intangibly perfect. To an extent greater than the everyday banal, I think a large part of this kind of perception is in the mind of the viewer rather than the thing viewed. That being the case, I wonder how much you need an actual object or view to obtain the sense of the sublime, and where is that border between meaning and meaninglessness. The five pictures in this post explore this idea, being a composite of all eight assignment images, with different levels of opacity for the background (first) picture. I think another way of approaching this might be as Dayanita Singh did in her Dream Villa and other projects [http://www.eileen-rafferty.com/2013/11/a-tale-of-three-shows.html], where a series of pictures all combine together to create an imaginary place or state. Singh describes her work as not exploring so much what is seen in the pictures as the edges or spaces between them.
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As noted at the start, I seem to have done a lot of thinking around these pictures. I don’t think that makes them great pictures, but it has been an interesting and valuable experience for me, and something I hope to build on.
To finish, here’s a little Paul Simon for you on this January day: A song I’ve long loved, which seems to sum up many of my feelings at this point.