The Sense of a Place / Landscapes and Time

When speaking to my tutor last week, he picked up on how when I speak about my practice I seem particularly focused on how landscapes make me feel as opposed to what they look like. I'm interested in depicting a sense of a place and documenting that feeling of 'being' somewhere through non-representational landscape works. Replicating feelings of places through painting by memory, only aided with photographic sources, as opposed to fully relying on imagery to create visually accurate scenes.

Of course, visual elements are obviously important in depicting the aforementioned feeling and sense of a place, but they are not my primary concern. I don't want a final painting to look just like a photograph. Shapes, collages, photography, paint, pastels... they are all the means of reaching a visually harmonious conclusion in a piece that feels upon viewing, to me, exactly how it felt in that moment. Using various combinations of photographs help to reach that conclusion. Taking elements like a tree dying on the Etna mountain from one image, a slope in the mountain from another and the shape of the horizon from a different perspective. An imaginary landscape is created with the thought of the location in mind as a whole rather than one certain viewpoint. The piece reflects my entire experience of a place, on this occasion Mount Etna, as opposed to a single snapshot.

Another thing that struck me when talking with Simon was how when standing on a high peak of Etna, taking in the vastness of my expansive surroundings, I was overwhelmed by how that landscape has shape-shifted throughout time. An eruption in 2002 - 2003 completely smothered the previous landscape with a huge amount of ash that could be seen from space when it formed a column in the sky and fell over a radius of 600km from the mountain. A new environment was built in a moment, one that was unplanned, a landscape completely changed by a single natural event. The black ash and lava rocks that were once not of existence now sit among trees that stand alive and untouched, narrowly avoiding the flow of lava. Other less fortunate trees stand, naked and stripped bare, slowly dying, waiting for their roots to rot when they eventually fall over. Others have already fallen, lying horizontally on the ground, the whiteness of the dying bark contrasting heavily against the petrol blue-black ash.

Perhaps it's because I have become completely enamored with the natural landscape since moving to Cornwall and basing my practice around it, but when I find myself in a new place I see things differently. The colours are intensified, the shapes made by the silhouette of a rock face jumps out at me, a single pink wisp of cloud in the sky. When painting, I want to emphasize these things that struck me when being at that place. Almost like a caricature drawing, my paintings place an emphasis on particular features, distorting and abstracting the landscape as a whole but still vaguely reminiscent of the place due to those recognisable features. That single pink wisp of cloud becomes extended over the entirety of the board I'm working on, the essence of the cloud extended through the work through drips of paint and pastel lines, intertwining with the grey mountains. I found a quote about Etna that goes into great detail and perfectly sums up the overwhelming sensations of colour, texture and shape I feel when observing a landscape.

I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset; the mountain almost invisible in a blur of pastel grey, glowing on the top and repeating its shape, as though reflected, in a wisp of grey smoke with the whole horizon behind radiant with pink light, fading gently into a grey pastel sky.
— Paul Theroux