Reflective Journal Week 20, 9 Feb – 15 Feb 2020

I was genuinely intrigued by the idea of “idealised landscape” among the Hudson River School and its contemporaneous art movements like Barbizon School, Newlyn School, etc. Noticing these movements was a trail-following of the previous statement regarding “the anxiety over advancement”. To my understanding, one of the movements the substantially influenced these art styles, the Romanticism, whose popularisation could be considered as a reaction to the industrialisation’s impact on western society. The movement was often viewed as a rationalised perspective about the relationship between human and nature. Despite the advancement of technology granted humanity the ability to conquer nature, romanticism artworks demonstrated a respectful fear and a celebration of the mother nature. Realism developed by the Barbizon School displayed the hardworking lives of peasants in Southern France. Figures are often installed in a quiet landscape painted by dense piles of colour and soft brush works that significantly inherited from Constable. Newlyn School, although it was a bit late compared to others, as a development (or the survival spirit) of Barbizon school. Painters travelled a land which is often described by words like “remote”, “barren” and “mythical”. Essentially, this kind of relocation was an active seeking of landscapes and lifestyle that highly praised by the artists. 

Considering the amount of unused research outcomes, Mrs Ahrens advised me to combine these bits of knowledge with my personal interests. I did have been fascinated in Cornish landscape, especially breath-taking natural sceneries of West Penwith. A considerable amount of my artistic career was spent on this topic already. Thus, with the help of tutor Nicolas Rae and Victoria Ahrens, the title of the proposal, as well as the research direction of Unit 2, was settled to be “Hudson River School: in what was, do the painters of the Hudson River School challenge the depiction of the ‘American Dream Landscape’? And How can these ideas of landscape painting be translated into a contemporary experience of Cornish landscape”.

Two useful parts from Scruton’s essay Cultural Conservatism were noted for further reference:

– Cultural conservatism reflects the anxiety over a way of life was under threat of disappearing. 

  • “Matthew Arnold (1822 – 88) in his great poem Dover Beach (1867) referred to the “Sea of Faith” and its “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar”, suggesting that modern people must find from their own resources and in particular from personal love, the way to maintain the inner order on which external stability depends. Arnold believes we should “esteem” the legacy of culture, which provides us with social knowledge we need, whether or not we have the religious faith with which to back it up.”

These statements were quickly associated with something else. I read about how the human mind tends to pick specific elements like odour, colour, sound, etc to label different memories. I believe it is safe to come to a corollary that the memorialisation of specific experience can be projected as the monumentalisation of involved vital elements. It is a potential explanation to why visiting destinations of tourists are often tendentious, and why travelling outsiders often failed to see the true image of a landscape. If it were not a thorough exploration that discovers images that little-known to the public, travellers would always be influenced by regional attractiveness that recorded by previous visitors, if I search West Penwith on the web, symbolic sceneries like Land’s End, Jubilee Pool, St Michael’s Mount would pop out, indicating the most popular experiences on the peninsula; as for those indigenous moments of life, especially those fragments that leisure tourists would not care about, have little chance to be discovered without an immersing experience.  

At this moment, I listed three directions of interests.

  • Anxiety over problems caused by regional policies like marginalisation and decrease of the indigenous population.
  • Monumentalised elements of Cornish culture that helped to developed their pride of “being Cornish”. (I guess they are symbols of a successful survival against colonists, harsh environmental conditions and powerful national consciousness which helped Cornish people maintained their lifestyle, traditions, etc.
  • Outsider’s idealised perspective of Cornish landscapes. 

A painting was produced as an experiment of figures. 

It started with a 1:1 scale sketch, and soon turned into its final form.

I thought about combining famous landscapes with unexplained figures. It could quickly indicate the precise location of the painting to create a sort of background. Then the utilisation of figures and still life objects could develop narratives which can be controlled to coordinate audiences on my research question. 

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.