Attitudes

Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

Chinese Proverb

There isn’t a problem that couldn’t be rendered unsolvable by elevating it to a higher level of abstraction. I know. I have been guilty of doing this countless times. Unfortunately, a certain class of problems needs this approach as all more localized, specialized solutions are just patches, not fixes.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part II

Ma Yuan

The first artist in this series, Ma Yuan (1160-1225), came from a family of painters, who were all serving at the imperial court of the Song Dynasty as members of the painting academy.  As with all the masters mentioned in this series I won’t go into the biographical data (which usually anyhow are rather sparse and can be found behind the link). Instead I will focus on looking at some of their works.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part I

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Detail from Xia Gui, A Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains

Introduction

Besides at least one spoken language, we all understand visual language, communication by lines, shapes, colors and textures. When we express ourselves in a visual language we are influenced by examples seen through the course of our lives. If, for example, we would have to draw the meaning “Stop”, chances are it would resemble the responding traffic sign in our country.

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Context – About this Blog

In a recent article called A Disturbing Trend in Photography the photographer and educator Neal Rantoul identifies a trend in photography, where the picture seems overwhelmed by the textual narrative surrounding it. In Rantoul words:

For most works [in recent portfolio reviews], separate the photographs from the words and you have no ability to comprehend what is going on.

He comes to the conclusion that:

This resides perilously close to using the photographs as illustrations, really another field entirely.

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Landscape and Beauty

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Why Landscape Art?

Humans have for at least three thousand years depicted landscapes. First in drawings and paintings and, since the 19th century, also in photographs. What do we find attractive in landscapes that compels us to continue this practice?
What we see is that, with the digital revolution in photography, the depiction of landscapes has not only continued, but exploded. Any image search for famous landmarks on the internet turns up thousands of pictures taken by amateurs and professional photographers alike.

In the light of environmental concern and the need to rethink our relation to nature, one can ask whether this visual overload is helpful or not. Does it show our continued connection to the beauty of this planet, or are we promoting a mindset that turns nature into a form of amusement park? In this context, also landscape artists in general and landscape photographers in particular have to define their role. Is landscape photography only a form of home decoration, or can it still be “art”, enriching people’s lives through meaning – and what kind of meaning could that be?

This article is an inquiry into an answer. It’s starting point is the question, why we might find landscapes beautiful and attractive in the first place.

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