Reflective Journal Week 34, 17 May – 23 May 2020

I completed a brief introduction regarding how images of landscapes were used to defined Cornish identity, with the focus on west Penwith in Unit 2. The historical, theoretical and contemporary context were written to indicate the existence as well as the reasonability of this perspective. Experiments through exploring the true essence of Cornish landscapes, visitors’ image and the materiality of particular elements were conducted to interrogate the research question. I aimed to visualise inspirations gained from Mark Jenkin’s movie Bait at the first place, about the attractiveness for tourists, in my opinion, is what leisure visitors aim to find in Cornish landscapes, “like a short run away from cities, rooftops covered by yellow moss or the heavy rain curtain that easily ruins your vacation and make everyone depressed”, instead of the true image of the County. And regarding experiments in materiality, upon the last visit, I found Cornish sea salt and coffee, which I may boldly emphasise a subjective absurdity that revealed in the demonstration of its regional distinctiveness. I extracted sea salt from different locations in Mount’s bay, then reproduced seawater in the studio. I recon these carriers whose surfaces are crystallised with Cornish sea salt as an attempt of challenging the boundary of being recognised as Cornish. 

The lockdown obviously restricted field trips, which is relatively important in this and the following unit. But it is fine; budget limit would also cause me to lose the opportunity of working en plain air. In the last bit of unit 2, I tried to monumentalise typical scenes and essential elements of a Cornish impression to create a sort of powerful cultural or identity icon. In the last October, Geraint suggested that I should take a look at Tate’s Turner collection in the print room if I am interested in Hudson River School. Upon the visit, the librarian explained a significant number of Turner’s and his contemporaneous painters like Thomas Girtin, Constable, they all have a great proportion of studio paintings. This method allowed them to built up exaggerating atmosphere much more easily. As a great tradition of English landscape painting, I think it is highly referable to the next stage of my study. 

An Italian artists Pierpaolo Rovero gained high popularity for his series of urban landscapes produced by imaginative travelling. The rumour is, he never visited those foreign counties in person. His exotic images of dazzling colours, well-organised composition, playful figures that inspired by “Where’s Waldo?” and his symbolic illustrating style granted him a massive amount of appreciation. 

https://www.pierpaolorovero.com/

https://www.collater.al/en/pierpaolo-rovero-imagine-all-the-people-illustration/

Particular pieces, The Sunset Safari above St Ives and Pure Cornish Ingredient were planned to make more works in this style.

The bird view is the perspective I discovered deeply in my passion for the fondness of the Cornish landscape. However, my shortage of English vocabulary obstructed me to express this feeling correctly, until I saw Peter Lanyon’s interview in BBC 4’s documentary The Art of Cornwall(2015). Lanyon introduced his habit of viewing landscapes in a glider with a similar statement, which kind of created a resonance with my understanding. 

As one of my classmate, also friend Bobbie Seagroatt suggests, that I can use google earth to complete travel with an overlooking angle. I reckon this method is quite practical. I can combine travel sketches, photographic resources, and these satellite images to support a series of pictorial explorations of Cornish landscapes until the theoretical research required otherwise. 

Two French painters, Pierre Bonnard and André Brasilier, they were both interested in translate pastoral elements into lyrical images.

Bonnard was a post-impressionism artist. He received a substantial influence of Japanese prints when the movement fashioned through Europe in the late 19th century. He translated the georgic labour into romanticised family scenes, focused on building connections between human interactions with nature.

Cavalier sur la plage, 1969
Cavaliers en foret, 1981
Forêt au ciel rose, ca. 1985
Cavaliers en foret, 1981

Brasilier, on the other hand, was devoted to depicting real-life objects in poetic composition, picturing the calmness of his inner world. 

An entire week finally achieved the dyeing process of the first experimental piece. Without the radiator, boiling saltwater which can significantly accelerate the extraction from weeks to hours was forced to be replaced with natural evaporation. Controlling the size of salt crystals ran into the technical predicament as well.

Salt that has been growing for months was detached from the surface. Inspired by the general composition of botanical illustrations, a piece called Specimen of Salt was created. This work shows the crystallised salt that distilled from reproduced seawater that made with hand-extracted Cornish salt displayed my interpretation of looting from nature based on artificially controlled natural elements. It was my concern as well as the reproduction of a manipulated Cornish history based on a romance-pursuit aesthetic standard, and the dilution caused by colonialism. 

The piece was put back into saltwater for further experiments regarding the crystallisation and dyeing process.

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.