Our idea of ‘Landscape’

As we progress through our life, we learn. We feel comfortable with the familiar. We think we know what is ‘right’.
This is true of how we view the world around us - we crave the familiar, we take pictures of it, we put up paintings on our walls, paintings we like.
NOW - we are having to take on the idea that all of that might not actually be as ‘right’ as we thought.

Most of us live in places where other people have lived for generations before us, and that means the areas where we grew up, those areas we love to look at, have been sculpted, shaped and styled by those previous generations.

What I didn’t know when I painted these trees, is that the man-made landscape around them has cut them off from the underground network of microfibres which, in a forest, would connect them to all the other trees around them.
I DID understand that the acorns they produce will not thrive, as they land in a field and will be eaten sooner or later.
But, together, these new realities mean that this image is doomed. Sooner or later, and probably sooner than would be the case if these trees were surrounded by others of their kind, these trees will fall down and there will be none to take their place.
I now understand that trees really should be grown, or allowed to grow, close to others like them.
Which means that this is a shout out for hedgerows!
BIG hedgerows, wide enough to let things grow, and regenerate.

I respect most farmers. They know a lot more about these things than I ever will, and they care about the landscapes that are in their custody. I would like to know how urbanites like me can help. We should be working together.
Every weekend, the hills in this painting are crowded with people, who mostly come from cities. 
We go there because of the scenery - it is impressive. But my point is, maybe we need to re-learn, reprogramme if you like, the way we think about what is ‘nice’ to look at.
Why are so many of our hills completely bare of anything except grass?
Might it not be better to encourage diversity? Trees have been harvested from these hills, first to feed industrial furnaces, then to warm the homes of our ancestors - no blame here, I’m sure if I had been around back then, I would have done exactly the same…… but knowing what we know now, we must take another look at our landscapes.

I become positively enthusiastic about the initiatives to restore landscape diversity, and this is why, despite the gloom of climate change, I continue to produce those cheerful (bucolic?) landscape paintings - to serve as a reminder to the viewer that the world we can still enjoy is worth our effort to ensure that future generations will be able to derive even greater pleasure.

The Artist’s Voice?

I try to be open to advice and guidance as an ‘emerging’ artist, and it is amazing just how often that boils down to one phrase: “You must find your voice…..”, or “Know what you want to say ….”

OK, I know that I tend toward being a pedant, but really?

I produce paintings. I put paint on canvas.

Where exactly does my ‘voice’ come into this?
I do not sing (a good thing too), I do not speak - what on earth has my voice got to do with anything?

Yeah, I know this is a metaphor, but it is now so overused, it is given out as the answer anytime an aspiring artist seeks guidance, and so often those giving it out have no ideas about how to follow through.
My paintings cover many different subjects - does that mean I have not ‘found’ my ‘voice’?
Or is this another symptom of the way the world has become shouty? 
Yes, I am seriously worried about climate change, and yes, I despair about what we do to the landscape that I paint.
But my personality is bright and cheerful, optimistic. I am a pragmatist. I find a way of dealing with whatever, so I actually find it difficult, impossible, to paint dark and gloomy pictures. I have tried. (Some go with this piece, below)
I argue that just as a professional musician must be able to play a dark and sombre lament then move on to a lively waltz, then on to something else, so an artist ought to be able to paint pictures in different styles to evoke different reactions. But I derive no pleasure from ‘dark and gloomy’ - maybe that is the point - I want to enjoy what I do and I want to produce paintings that other people will enjoy looking at.
Does this mean that despite my protestations, I HAVE ‘found my voice’?
Lively. Colourful. Interesting.
I have great respect for artists who are capable of producing work which is a very close replica of the reality they see in front of them and indeed that is where I began, but over time, with growing confidence and the years of practice, my work is moving, evolving, and is now somewhere west of expressionist, but is still south of abstract - proving the point that the ‘voice’ metaphor gets mixed up with the ‘journey’!
I am also puzzled as to why these words matter - shurely you, the viewers of art, look at the pictures in front of you, as I do with Turner, Cezanne, van Gogh - and the others.  When he died, Turner left over 30,000 watercolours to the nation - were there 100 word descriptions of each of them?

The ancient Greek philosophers provide an answer: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” - which would mean that all this stuff about voices and journeys is actually aimed at helping me, the artist, to realise what I am striving for and to put that into my paintings. 
Off I go then, into the studio ……..

A selection of paintings which should each tell a story.
Alun at Lower Navigation Colliery, now derelict, told me he served his apprenticeship there.
And ‘Home Alone 2021’ needs no more commentrary.
Cwm Sere Cottage - derelict old homes which are scattered around the hills always raise questions - who lived there? What was life like for them in that place? Did their hopes die ?

But is it ‘Abstract’? Art Labels matter

I have argued, forcefully at times, that labels don’t matter.
I was wrong.
Having now been presenting my art to the world for some years, and in doing engaging with a wider community of artists and people who know about all this, I now believe that labels ARE important.

It has become clear to me that every one of us sees through our own lenses, our perspective, norms, values. These give the brain its ability to categorise and to judge everything we see , hear, touch, smell or taste. Reactions to abstract art illustrate this through the often-asked question: “What is it?” and similarly any time I show landscape paintings I am asked “Where IS that?”. So it seems to me that most viewers of artworks actively seek this point of reference before they look deeper into the piece.
For many of us appreciation of the arts, especially musical works, has an evanescence in that the memory of our reaction will fade, so here again, the focal, recognisable features provide vital ‘hooks’ - maybe the name of the opera singer, or the pianist, or the person who was there when that meal was eaten.

I am of course familiar with many different styles of painting within the genre of Landscape, from the classical traditional era of Constable, through Turner, Cezanne, impressionism, expressionism and many others…… do you see what I am doing here? With the mention of each of those triggers, an image comes up in my memory.
How could that happen without labels?

So here goes : CREATIVE EXTRAPOLATION of the Landscape.

This is what I have decided to use as the label for much of my work.

I have enormous respect for those artists who produce paintings which evoke the reaction “Wow! Its just like a photograph…..”
Of course that cry is very rarely true. Every artist brings something to the easel that is carried into their work and puts it beyond photography. But hyper-realism is not a label that works for me.

‘Expressionism’ is also inadequate for me as that claims to be about the sensations the artist feels when gazing on a particular view, or those which are evoked by looking at the work.

At the other end of the spectrum from realism, pure abstract art is supposed to have no relationship at all with reality, and that is also not what I do.
I seek to take some recognisable feature of a landscape and put it into a setting which is beyond any interpretation of physical reality, to give that feature an imaginary and intangible context, to create a multi-dimensional narrative to emphasise the elusive, the transient or the ephemeral. Building on evanescence if you like.

Extrapolation is about the projection of layers beyond known values.  It is a term which originated in statistics and which has floated into the sphere of AI. {Artificial Intelligence}  I seek to apply it to my painting.
Many landscape artists have presented their interpretation of a scene, expressed through some variation of the known, which is interpolation.
Extrapolation goes further, and, I hope, will generate works which can be respected for their own features as much as for the presentation of the physical realities.

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