There is a place in England called Woodcombe sands . It’s reached by the South West Coast Path from East Prawl along a winding footpath descending from the steep cliffs . I had the pleasure of stumbling upon this last summer and rejoiced in the fact that I was the only occupant . I would suffice to say that in the whole of history I could not imagine a motor powered land vehicle ever frequenting its shores. I may be wrong because the more I looked the more mans presence became visible but for the few moments I spent there I was alone with nature. The old boathouse there was the obvious tell tale sign but what about the footpaths and the clearing of land on the cliff tops causing subsidence ? And above all does it matter ? Is anywhere truly sacred? Did the actual physical place inspire me as an artist ? The only answer I have right now is to the later question and that is a resounding no . No in the fact that do a want to make an image of Woodcombe sands . Not at all . Why would I ? But if I want to make Art then maybe Woodcombe is a good reference point .
The word Landscape
We can derive a lot from the word landscape itself . It is both a verb and a noun . If I landscape my garden it automatically implies that I am going to change the physical layout of it . I’m going to “manscape” it to coin a phrase .At least with my bare hands but I may wield a shovel or hoe along it surface to sculpt its contours into what I feel is pleasing .
On the other hand as a noun to many people it implies the object of something natural and moreover something beautiful , rolling fields , hedgerows , green hills . But isn’t that a very English view …? A predisposed view somehow ingrained in our psyche through images we grew up with . The paintings of John Constable did it for me . Yes we did have one of those piteous reproductions of the Hay wain hanging above the fireplace but no matter how bad it did subconsciously affect my sensibilities towards the landscape. Another thing about the Haywain is the resounding political implications the painting had at the time. It is hard to think so but looking at this painting we can read into a national history . Did Constable mean it …? Well there’s another post !
However according to Schama in his book Landscape and Memory(Harper Collins 1995) the word landscape entered the English landscape as a Dutch import at the end of the 16th Century . The word landschap signified a unit of human existence . It was synonymous with the polders and dams themselves a testimony to mans talents for engineering the landscape . And so the word landscape can imply something shaped not necessarily assuming natural beauty .
It’s an interesting word ,landscape. It has many descriptors – romantic , industrial . urban , postmodern . I could go on . For me I have always had a mild curiosity as a child . I liked visiting places to see what i could see and loved comparing places but it was an unexpected happening that forced me to take a keen interest . It was the relegation of my old white Ford van to the great scrap heap in the sky that forced me onto my blessed two feet . It was after a period of about 6 months of walking to work , shops and to the seafront down alleys and steps I had driven by but barely awarded a glance that I began to realize that the demotion to the slower pace was actually a revelation . It granted me the time to look but more importantly to notice the nuances of the growing landscape . The fascination of a picture unfolding right in front of me . Its light , shape form and surface there for everyone if only we have the time to look . . .
- Morning Landscape 2 (murphyco1997.wordpress.com)