Life Takes A Cosmic Perspective Oil on linen 91 x 137 cm 2014
was held
2 - 14 September 2014

Published July 29 in THE CULTURE CONCEPT is an article about
Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox: Artist - Life & Landscape Entwined

Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2014
Installation Photos!

 Why Untethering Landscape?

I have a long interest in cosmology, the study of the Universe [maybe Multiverse?]. Over the last few years my paintings have reflected this interest more and more. But, I am not a scientific illustrator or an artist who provides 'artist impressions' of what something might actually look like. Rather, I like to paint a sense of wonder, using symbols and ambiguous landscapes to pose questions. I am inspired by many things, including science and particularly cosmology. I think it fascinates me because it delves into an array of different areas that variously investigate the elements of the quantum to the vast, plus studying the history of the Universe, as well as posing fascinating and important philosophical questions. It reveals new perspectives of our planet and ourselves...offering new ways to approach the various problems that face us in the 21st century.

So, it is against this background of wonder and investigation that I propose the need to rethink ideas of landscape and how we represent these ideas. Landscape has long been an anchor for humankind. Indeed, we literally stand on it, we dig it up, we change it to suit our needs...it provides us with food, shelter and water. It also collapses on us, sends inclement weather, erupts, floods and dries up. Our depictions of landscape, I suspect, have provided a kind of tethering for the anchor. These depictions, throughout the ages, have helped us form identity.

But, with the Universe revealing many of its secrets into the hands of truly amazing scientists, we need to untether ideas of landscape from Earth-bound horizons. Why? Because, if we are to understand ourselves in a cosmological sense, we have to grapple with broader horizons across time and space. Earth maybe our home, but the universe is our environment. Humankind's sense of identity is currently being provoked, prodded and questioned, but I am not too sure how many people have noticed!

Our identity as dwellers/citizens of the Universe provides totally new perspectives of the close and far distances of our 'environment'. These perspectives may seem dizzying and scary, but we need to overcome them in order to acquire 21st century identity. The genre of landscape, I believe, is a known conduit that can help guide us...if we...untether it...and take flight with it! This is what I attempt to do with my 'landscapes'.

In many of my paintings I use the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol to create sweeping vistas of indeterminate 'address' or as a beacon atop mountainous scapes. Its agelessness as a symbolism of life imbeds it into our psyches. Its branching appearance resonates within as it reflects literal vascular systems. It reminds us of systems, seen and unseen, of all kinds. Life and landscape entwined!

Surrendering Horizon Oil on linen 100 x 150 cm 2014
Identity in the 21st century
If humankind is to understand and deal with potential existential risks, such as nuclear threats, biological pandemics, artificial general intelligence gone mad, demise of the planet through natural or human induced means, cyber attacks that annihilate systems and infrastructure etc surely we have to know who we are and what it means to be human? We have to be sure of our identity in order to safeguard ourselves and future generations. This is especially so, because technology is such a pervasive element in our daily lives. Unlike any other age we engage with technology in a way which is changing us in many ways. We even anthropomorphise it!
So how can landscape and depictions of it help? Here's a few ideas:
[maybe even revolutionary ones!]
  • Well...it's a genre that's been around for eons. It obviously holds a key to an out-picturing of how we humans feel about environment and our place in it. There's something, therefore, very human about it. No other living creature can reflect in this way.
  • The Earth is a result of tumultuous events which occurred billions of years ago. The Big Bang, as far as we know, was in a sense the precursor to landscape. After all, it provided the elements for our Earth to ultimately form. It provided the elements for humankind to ultimately form too! In my mind...and remember I am not a scientist...Earth, us and the whole Universe is 'landscape', because we are formed from the same stuff! Thus, we must look up from our iPhones and computer screens to absorb the 'landscape' of new horizons and perspectives offered by cosmology. Our survival, our consciousness and our physicality, demands it.
  • We care...we care about environment. Will robots with artificial general intelligence [AIG]care? Can caring about environment be programmed into AIG? Maybe caring for, being aware of...and depicting landscape...will be a marker of difference between humankind and robots? I can imagine a robot depicting a landscape realistically. But, I find it a lot harder to imagine a robot depicting landscape in abstract, symbolic or expressive form. By untethering landscape from Earth-bound horizons we might stay more than one step ahead of AIG

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wonderful post tnx Kathryn