Childhood Memory oil on linen 55 x 80 cm 2001 - 2002
That word LANDSCAPE
Let's pull it apart!
Here are some meanings from Online Oxford Dictionaries
- All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal:
- A picture representing an area of countryside:
- The distinctive features of a sphere of activity:
All a bit dry really. None of these descriptions give a clue to the dynamism, contention, potentiality, history, deep meaningfulness of 'landscape'.
I grew up in a landscape of treeless plains framed by endless flat horizons to the west and majestic mountain ranges in the far east. The sky, whether it was clear blue or stormy black, met the land with impact. Sheer geographical flatness drew the sky into an ongoing scape that lifted you to heaven at the same time as grounding with intent. As the seasons changed so did the colours: ploughed black soil, lush green seedlings and depending on winter or summer crops, the land seemed to blaze with colour, the deep reds of sorghum-to the shimmering gold of wheat-to the bright yellow of sunny sunflowers and more. The night sky was like gazing upon jewels seemingly flung at random across dark velvet. My childhood landscape was immense in more ways than one.
The above paragraph fulfils the first description of the word landscape; All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal:
Night Time Electric Storm [Across The Flat Plain] Oil on line 55 x 80 cm 2013
The second dictionary description A picture representing an area of countryside: Well, this is where the last sentence of the above paragraph My childhood landscape was immense in more ways than one. comes into play. Why? Because, as an artist I paint the landscape. Over many years I have gone from literal depictions to more abstracted ones. And, now I have launched myself beyond the horizons of my childhood environment, beyond even Earth's horizons, to tackle the penetrating perspectives offered by cosmology.
I often wonder if I'd be 'flying' about the cosmos viewing the universal 'landscape' if I had not experienced the distance and space of the flat plains of my childhood. The Australian landscape is immense, yet most people live close to the edge where sea and land meet. The long interior is sparsely inhabited. I remember many city or foreign visitors, to my family childhood home, becoming quite agitated by the distance and flatness. They felt vulnerable and looked forward to returning to their known, but more closely contained environments. Maybe living with and in the openness of a literally vast landscape engendered a kind of bravery in me to take 'flight'? After all, there was literally nowhere to hide on the flat Pirrinuan Plain* [See below].
On My Travels I Saw oil on canvas 90 x 100 cm 2013
For me the literal landscape goes well beyond planet Earth. Indeed the first description above: All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal: does not discriminate between Earthly or other geographies. Yet, it is how and why we depict 'landscape', as described in description two, that propels 'landscape' into other realms beyond the literal.
This takes us to the third dictionary description of landscape The distinctive features of a sphere of activity: Yes, the word landscape is used to describe other kinds of human endeavour and activity eg: political landscape, landscape of the soul, spiritual/religious landscape, landscape architecture, historical landscape, legal landscape...and I am sure you can think of more. We also use other landscape linked words as descriptors ie: political terrain, safe harbour, life's road, rivers of consciousness, Operation Desert Storm and I am sure you can also think of more!
So, now I am going to tie all three dictionary descriptions together.
LANDSCAPE! - LANDSCAPE! - LANDSCAPE!
Regular readers know that I see the Universe as our environment. I am inspired by cosmological theories and discoveries of the vast and intimate distances of the Universe...and maybe the Multiverse. ..a massive 'landscape' indeed. For that reason I paint 'landscapes' that play with perspective, creating an ambiguity of place, space and time that hopefully induce the viewer to cast their imaginations beyond our Earthly home to our Universal horizons.
I propose that the new and different perspectives cosmology offers humanity may provide ways to reflect on issues that currently seem overwhelming or problematic. One of these is the concept of land ownership and the history of war and conflict that surrounds it. With cosmic perspectives the idea of land ownership, with its incumbent borders and boundaries, seems to pale into insignificance. Even more thought provoking is that if we viewed land, and ownership of it, with cosmic perspectives, conflict and war become even more futile than we already acknowledge.
Life Takes A Cosmic Perspective oil on linen 90 x 137 cm
Imagine if land ownership, borders and boundaries did not exist, but were replaced with a custodial kind of imperative that humanity shared. Maybe concepts of state and nationhood would be renegotiated? Maybe war and conflict would be reduced, even significantly? The 'landscapes' I paint are not just depictions of scenery, although imagined, they are also quietly political. How? By drawing attention to new perspectives that have the potential to force major shifts in how we view ourselves and our planet, various dearly held paradigms, which are increasingly cumbersome in a global sense, may crumble. My quiet activism brings me to the third dictionary description of landscape The distinctive features of a sphere of activity: where I propose that my work sits within a political 'landscape'...as well as others!
I will go a little further to add that my quest to untether 'landscape' from Earth-bound horizons as well as my desire to untether the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life from traditional visual interpretations to reveal 21st century meaningfulness, are pursued with a sense of hopefulness. For me, hope and engendering it, are also imbued with political agency.
Hope Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2013
That brings me to my forthcoming exhibition
From Earth-Bound Horizons
2 - 14 September here in Brisbane
Please visit the exhibition's site HERE
* The Pirrinuan Plain
My brother Wilfred Brimblecombe has a photography blog where he has uploaded images of Pirrinuan.
Dry Rain On The Pirrinuan Plain
Pirrinuan Railway Siding
Pirrinuan Paddocks in the 1980s
White Cloud Black Soil Distant Creek