Saturday, January 19, 2008

Landscape Manifesto

People ask me why I paint landscape, and I think it's funny, in a sardonic sort of way. It's not just that basic, elemental question that bothers me, but the tone. The way in which people ask--with a furrowing brow and and a drawn out, dead tone in their voice, which implies that someone painting landscape is much more confounding than any other subject. It creates a child-like anger in me and I immediately want to be contrary. I want to say, "Why not paint landscapes?" Or, "Why paint anything that is not a landscape?" Of course my tone in these answers would become as confounded.
But, I don't do that. Overall, I'm not a very confrontational person. Usually, I reply with the stock answer, "I've been interested in landscape ever since I can remember." Which is true, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. That answer doesn't explain anything, and barely begins to defend my position. But, I just want to shut people up so I can go paint.
This is a double standard--people seem pressed to find what is interesting or relevant in landscape, but also see nothing confusing or prosaic about any other major subject matter. All without reason or support. Also, people seem to think landscape is done to death, and nothing more that is new can come out of it. If this were true, portraits would be dead and buried. (Oddly, people outside the 'art world' seem to have no problem with landscape. They seem to embrace it.) But on the positive side, all this doubt floating around me gets me thinking even more about landscape, nature, geography, art and my beliefs. I decided to write a manifesto of landscape. I know manifestos can make people sound crazy, but they are so forceful and concise. They are poetic, staccato, energetic and passionate. I've been writing a lot of artist's statements, and they don't seem to cut it. The whole genre of artist's statements has been so watered down that they look to me like they were written in invisible ink. Sometimes, one must isolate one's self just a little to communicate, instead of pandering to everyone's whims. If the reader gets it they get it. If they agree they agree. If not, no loss. The good thing about a manifesto (or at least they way I chose to write mine) is that this process is on a point to point basis. It's not all or nothing, like a statement tends to be.

Andrew's Landscape Manifesto

1. Landscape is a conduit through which I express myself.

2. Paint has it's own organic way of working, which I merely collaborate with.

3. Every landscape has its own drama and its own history.

4. Regions have their own flavor.

5. The landscape is ever-changing and a constant companion.

6. Water is the heart of landscape.

7. No human or group of humans can supersede landscape.

8. Human emotion and landscape are inexorably linked.

9. Sense of place matters. The specifics of a particular location create interest and emotion, and even personification of landscape.

10. The elemental source of conflict and resolution is landscape.

11. To explore the land is to be where one should be, where one feels free.

12. Landscape is a map of time, a map of human endeavors and a log of natural history.

13. Landscape is nature's chess board.

14. Landscape is the ultimate display of layers.

15. Landscape is not a stage upon which time's dramas occur--it is the drama of time.

16. Humans owe their existence, pleasure and survival to the land.

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