Wednesday, August 12, 2015


 Australian Landscape Cut Out Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015

Australian Landscape Cut Out was not in my recent exhibition CODE because it was in Sydney, awaiting, along with many other artists' paintings, for pre-selection viewing for the Wynne Prize. This prize is for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or to the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.  Alas, my painting was not pre-selected and it arrived back in Brisbane after CODE was finished. However, the painting below Privileged Landscape? was in CODE and caused great interest.

Regular readers will recognise both paintings as 'cosmic landscapes'. They play with perspective, the kinds of perspective contemporary cosmology and astronomy provide. The universe is now literally touched by humankind, as spacecraft progress even beyond our solar system. This has happened progressively since 1957 when the first spacecraft, Sputnik 1, was launched by Russia.

Spacecraft take photographs of, and collect other data about, entities they pass, encounter or land upon. Information and images are sent back to Earth for scrutiny and examination, providing more knowledge about our universal well as stirring even more awe and wonder.

This year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft got close to Pluto on its onward journey beyond. Many photographs and other data were sent back to Earth. As with images from investigations of other celestial entities the ensuing descriptions of the Pluto photographs struck me as important, and not just for the obvious reasons. For me it's about how we conceptualise landscape. Indeed, contemporary space research is 'telling' us that landscape exists beyond Earth's horizons! We use descriptive terms to understand other planets, moons etc based on our experience of our Earthly environment. These descriptions take 'landscape' into space!

Here are a couple of quotes from NASA's New Horizons site that illustrate how humankind's descriptive needs bring landscape into universal dimensions. New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains... and... A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain.

Concepts of landscape must expand to include and embrace ideas of a Universal Landscape. An expanded view of landscape may assist humankind in navigating how it deals with 21st century issues that pose existential threats, such as extreme climate change, bio-threats, technological risk and more. How? A Universal Landscape provides us with not only perspectives that are outwardly focused. It also provides us with perspectives of Earth situated within a vastness that clearly shows how beautiful, isolated and vulnerable we are. Indeed, despite exciting discoveries of potential Earth-like planets, currently we humans have nowhere else to go. Perspective is 'telling'...even 'imploring'... us to get on with each other and to look after our Earth-HOME.

In Australian Landscape Cut Out and Privileged Landscape? I have attempted to question attachments to local landscapes that might blind us the variety of perspectives cosmology is offering. Discernible landscape characteristics of Earth ie: continents, oceans etc effectively disappear when viewed from the vast distances of space. Indeed, so do boundaries and borders, and accompanying notions of nationhood and land ownership. If we remain attached to Earth based ideas of landscape, then 'landscape' and orientation disappear with vast distance ...yet an expanded idea of 'landscape' means we can keep oriented within a universal environment.

In both paintings the starry universe is visible where the continent of Australia has been cut out. This was a deliberate attempt to draw the universe closer, to suggest that our orientation with and by landscape needs to expand beyond the local. Regular readers know of my thoughts on the importance of developing skills in seeing multiple perspective, even simultaneously. These paintings play with ideas of multiple interplay between the local and universal, the nano and vast.

The famous image Pale Blue Dot, taken from Voyager 1 as it left the solar system in 1990, showed Earth as a small dot amongst a swathe of other small sparkling entities in space. No discernible Earth landscape features were evident because the planet had become a spec upon a much larger landscape...a Universal one. Humbling indeed.

In the 21st century humankind has an opportunity to re-examine landscape.


Greener Pastures

New World Habitability: Vacation Anyone?

Pale Blue Dot

Team Humanity

Perspective - Yes Again!

That Word - Landscape


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