Landscape painting. The term brings to mind J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, who made the genre popular in the 19th century. Since then, artists have continually updated the subject, through the Impressionism of Monet to the Pop Art of David Hockney. Today, can artists continue to make landscape painting relevant and exciting? Let’s take a look at 6 artists pushing past tradition to re-imagine the landscape in contemporary terms.
1. Judy Watson
Australian artist Judy Watson works in printmaking, painting, video and installation. The landscape is a recurring subject in her practice, through which she explores her Aboriginal heritage. Large wall hangings picture grasslands, monuments, tools and significant sites from her homeland. She confronts colonial power, and the destruction of culture and community, as well as ecological issues. With devastating wildfires ravaging Australia this year, an apocalyptic quality to her burnt orange canvases delivers an urgent message.
2. John Newling
John Newling’s conceptual art is not only about nature, but made with nature. In ‘Eliot's Note Books’, he has transformed hundreds of copies of T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’ into sustainable soil. In a reverse process, he has subsequently used the soil to create books. If placed in the earth, these would grow again. Through his art, Newling invites us to consider a closer connection with, and greater understanding of, the natural world. As the artist explains: “I wish to contribute and give new possibilities to the traditions of landscape art. I am interested in creating works that will continue to grow and change long after I am not here”.
3. Geoff Uglow
Geoff Uglow paints the landscape that surrounds his studio in rural Cornwall. Over the last ten years, he has cultivated a magnificent rose garden, gathering hips and seeds from his travels to Scotland and Italy. His richly painted, large-scale canvases celebrate the traditional symbolism of the rose, as an emblem of love. At the same time, the gestural, sculptural quality to his expressive painting technique shows the artist moving the medium forward.
With an Italian father, Roberto Pagliarulo paints the coastline of Amalfi as a means of exploring his cultural heritage. An exceptional colourist, he pictures Italy as a romantic dream-place, populated by classical statues, mythical messengers and pink trees. He also frames each scene from cinematic vantage points, blurring the boundaries between myth and reality. Whilst honouring antiquity, the artist pictures the landscape in a unique calligraphic style. He leaves you dreaming of an escape to Amalfi.
Geoff Diego Litherland explores the tension between the natural world and its appropriation by human influence. The artist draws from traditional genres of painting and the surrealism of science fiction. The result is a fantasia of abstraction: he creates a parallel world that seeks to not only question our perception of and relationship to nature, but paintings’ historical and current role in that.
6. Marianne Nix
Marianne Nix combines photography, digital tools, traditional printmaking and oil paint to create layered images of the landscape. She is interested in the history of a place, including the writers, artists, poets and philosophers who have walked there before us. Her photographs of the Antarctic evoke expeditions of the mid-19th century, whilst her paintings of Kenwood’s rhododendrons recall the designs of William Morris. At the same time, she pictures the landscape in terms which suggest digital photography and its role in maintaining memory.