The idea of landscape exists in every culture to criss-cross the fields of history, architecture, the visual arts and everyday life. In the last two decades, the “idea” of landscape has become a point of interest for scholars and artists from a variety of regions. Subsequently, the more tradition bound notion of landscape as a genre of artistic expression has been retooled in response to both Marxist critiques and the forces of global change. Landscape is no longer cast as a mimetic response, or a simple re-presentation of nature, rather it is understood to be a medium of expression.2 In its capacity as a mode of communication, landscape has the ability to weave through the specificities of locality and personal experience in a way that “speaks” to social, cultural or political concerns in the moment. 3 In this sense, landscape when its takes on a representational or visual form rather than something that is experienced first hand, becomes an “exemplary encounter with subjectivity. It is understood as a kind of unity –“framed” or otherwise “composed,” and always ‘seen” – which reflects, or articulates, the sense of self. 4
Land-forms showcases a diverse range of approaches to the idea of the “land.” The work of these artists deliberately nuances the understanding of landscape as a medium. Landscape, then within the context of this exhibition, is cast as an enunciation that bears the weight of a multiplicity of personal or cultural circumstance. In keeping with this, the title of the exhibition seizes on the possibility that the “forms” contemporary engagements with the land take often belie their staid two-dimensions and express a depth that reaches beyond the picture plane.
1 Anne Whiston Spirn, “One With Nature”: Landscape, Language, Empathy and Imagination,” in Landscape Theory (New York: Routledge, 2008): 53.
2 Arguably Chinese landscape painting has always been categorized as such, see, Wen C. Fong, “Of Nature and Art: Monumental Landscape,” in Asian Art, eds., Rebecca M. Brown and Deborah S. Hutton (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006): 278-288. Within the European academy is it was David Solkin’s reading of Richard Wilson’s landscape painting that changed the state of the field. See Richard Wilson, The Landscape of Reaction (London: Tate Publishing, 1982)
3 Also see, WJT Mitchel, “Imperial Landscape,” in Landscape and Power: Space, Place, and Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994): 5.
4 James Elkins, “The Art Seminar,” in Landscape Theory (New York: Routledge, 2008): 103.