16 February, 2015

Earthly Windows

The Medieval Period

The Renaissance

The Industrial Revolution

The Twentieth Century

Artist Statement – Earthly Windows
The experience of the European landscape throughout the ages.

A photographic image often does little justice to what is actually in front of the camera. This is because the camera has one fundamental flaw: it has a single, stationary eye. It can capture only a single moment, a single perspective. This is nothing like the experience of reality, in which you are always moving through space and time.

And yet, I love photography and painting. More specifically, I am intrigued by how a three-dimensional space can be reduced to a flat surface: a reduction to the essence, with the suggestion of depth. Especially with photography, you always have the idea the image is authentic, that it truly reflects reality.

Two kinds of perspective play a critical role in our perception of whether a photo or painting is true to nature or objective: linear perspective, determined by the choice of the lens; and atmospheric perspective, with the image appearing bluer as the space recedes and the richness in contrast diminishes. Theoretically, these two forms of perspective convey reality best. At the same time, however, they sometimes fail to convey how one in fact experiences a landscape. Working on my earlier series of the Dutch landscape, I realised that some of my photos failed to reflect my own personal experience – the objective image made by the camera diverged from what I had subjectively seen. For example, when walking down a narrow path that leads to a village visible in front of me, the distance seems short. When capturing the same scene with my camera – one that includes both the path and the village – much to my dismay the path appears wide and the village far away.

It was Wim Kranendonk’s dissertation on the famous Italian painter Giambattista Tiepolo[1] that sparked my desire to approach the photographing of landscapes in a new and different way. In Tiepolo’s work, visual perspective is often contradictory in nature. Through the use of colour, relative scale and shifting vanishing points, as Kranendonk points out, the artist manages to achieve a spatial duplicity. In some paintings, the foreground appears farther away, while objects and events in the background seem closer. The beholder finds himself repeatedly challenged: from what level of perspective am I looking at this figure or object, from below or from a position of equal height? Frequently, the views are in fact hybrid: as if figures and objects are simultaneously observed from two different directions.

Throughout the ages, the experience of landscape has been subject to change. Like looking through a stained-glass window, your experience has a different colour if you move your eye to a different glass fragment of the window. Your experience is determined both by the era in which you live and your cultural surroundings, but also by the speed with which you travel through a landscape and your motivation for embarking on your journey.

My own photographic journey – a trip through the time and space of Europe – begins in Spain, where I make my way on foot to Santiago de Compostela taking the oldest pilgrim’s route to experience the enclosed space of the Middle Ages. In France, I climb to the top of Mont Ventoux – following in Petrarch’s footsteps – to view with my own eyes the vista opening onto to the new world of the Renaissance. In Great Britain, I discover the symbol of the Industrial Revolution – a landscape scarred by human activity – in the mining landscapes in and around the Lake District. Lastly, I cross Germany with great speed on the Autobahn, to capture the experience of the twentieth century, forced upon the viewer in a series of impressions.

[1] Giambattista Tiepolo’s “pittoresca erudizione”, Wim Kranendonk, 2013, ISBN 978-90-6464-602-7