A landscape is a series of named locales, a set of relational places linked by paths, movements and narratives. (Tilley ‘94 conclusion) It’s a long way from rural New South Wales to rural n/e France or more precisely the other way around but with the right light and a morning mist and possibly the squinting of eyes, a paddock with a haystack here could be there or there here.
Though of course it would only be a trick of the mind and the light, the paddocks and the haystacks carry their own stories which would refuse to engage in such deception but they may be captured in their own elements, engaged in that moment of mist filled eye-squint, to mingle and enmesh with the viewers stories/ memories/ passages and possibly here or there or both be dabbed upon a canvas. Stolen from its place of Being, a haystack out of context with its reason. Later to travel the world, a representative of it’s time, locale, people. ( )
A journey along a path can be claimed to be a paradigmatic cultural act, since it is following in the steps inscribed by others whose steps have worn a conduit for movement which becomes the correct or ‘best way to go. There is usually a good reason for following in a particular direction linking places in a serial trajectory, and the more people who have shared in the purpose of the path the more important it becomes. Paths form an essential medium for routing of social relations, connecting up spatialimpressions with temporally inscribed memories. (Tilley ‘94) A question of framing. What is in view and not, what comes into view and leaves.
Objects/thoughts depart, move through the field of vision/thinking to make way for others. Again I am driving the freeway to Canberra. I’m going to the National Gallery to see ‘Monet & Japan’ an exhibition looking at the influence Japanese art had on the great Impressionists work. I have driven this road many times over, a journey of repetition and change. The years and I have seen changes to the landscape that rushes headlong towards my windscreen or slides past my window. (? ). Does the view come to me or I to it or both? ( ) Perception delivers all three. The further I get from the urban/e sprawl space opens and closes.
The wider, longer, further the view the cosier my auto cocoon becomes. Inside becomes more inside with the advent of an increasing outside. My crumple zones gain strength from not having as much to potentially crumple with. The general comes toward while the specific is moved to, evoking a mood or whispering a history or prodding a memory. They slide past, into profile, peripheral, moving swiftly through the blind spot to the vanishing point. Becoming once again memory, endlessly becoming. Always memory. ( ). Spatiotemporal linkages thus established become obvious templates for future movements and the maintenance of relationships.
Linked places along the journey may be read in terms of temporal relationshipssof precedence and power. (Tilley 94) This road has become one of my paths, travelled back and forth across my life, the journey integral and distinct from the departure or arrival. Part of the memory of me is the repetition of these scenes through different seasons, times of day, emotional states. Best travelled, like any long journey or memory, in the soft light, like early dawn when the edges are indistinct yet with a veneer of clarity over the whole vista.
The course has changed a number of times with Bypasses built around towns and the remembering that went with them. Bridges forged across valleys and creeks, vaulting old moments of crossing. Crossing like a giant’s footprint rather than winding into and out of a gully. Sometimes reduced to a uniformity of signposting of the just-over-there variety. The memory of that particular point of the journey; – so much time travelled, a certain distance covered, equals what remains to complete, is layered with a different view, a redrawing of real and mind maps, an altered sense of history.
New experiential bridges or rock-walls to mark the passage, detours for a more direct route. The most conspicuous characteristic of Impressionism was an attempt to accurately and objectively record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour. painting landscapes and river scenes in which they tried to dispassionately record the colours and forms of objects as they appeared in natural light at a given time. (Encyclopedia Britannica 1994)
It’s the Artist we’ve come to admire when these images of captured culture are presented for our perusal. How did he get the light the way he has? ” “He used more white than most”. But the truth may be that he didn’t ‘get the light’ but rather the light got him. The bridge or cliff-face, street scene or haystack ’spoke’ to his eye, recited its particular poetic to someone capable of understanding the language and transcribing it for the general audience. While the object may have been to view the subject dispassionately, it is already loaded with such significance and meaning which if truly excised from the scene would render the scene lifeless and the act of capture pointless.
Monet who was heavily influenced by Japanese landscape painting and drawings particularly the work of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) almost certainly would have been aware of the inescapable cultural composition and context in his own work. The rural landscapes were humanised landscapes even though in most of his late work the absence of human subjects was predominant. The cleared field with haystacks painted at different times of the year (a reference to Hokusais’ 36 Views of Mt Fuji) speak also of the humanity not included in the frame. Like the source of light that is always just out of the picture so is the subject within the subject.
The repetition of subject through changing seasons offers more than just a difference in light and shade; it gives a layered history of a place, time and emotion. Time passing for the subject, Artist and the viewer. Tokyo, Japan to Giverny, France to Canberra, Australia. I am struck by the language of the landscapes that have spoken over the centuries and have even dared whisper to me on my morning mist drives through the countryside or through the low gold autumnal light that late in the afternoon plays through the turning foliage of a Japanese maple in my back garden.