Unit 3

Proposal

The theme of Unit 3 is to challenge the contemporary depiction of Cornish identity critically. It will focus on the confrontation between the awakening of indigenous cultural signature and outsider’s preoccupied impressions of an idealised Cornish landscape. The project will consist of physical practices, weekly-based journal development and a dissertation which critically reflect the topic. The project aimed to explore the feasibility of objectively understand the true essence of the Cornish landscape from a visitor’s perspective.
Considering the lockdown measures, conducting field trips is relatively impossible at this moment. However, actively seeking the uniqueness of the Cornish landscape will be conducted through any possible methods. The situation could potentially cause fluctuation in the proportion of materiality explorations with sea salt, also turned the working method into pure studio-based. Landscape paintings will be focused on. But in this case, genre paintings could be produced to document the contemporary lifestyle of Cornish people. It could significantly make up the figurelessness of landscape painting as an additional viewpoint to provide a relatively more comprehensive angle to support the theme. How a the landscape of Cornwall has been used and can be used to define its regional signature, the proposal intends to engage this question from both ends.

Artist Statement

I am interested in how images of a particular landscape can be used to define a specific identity, and ideas derived from this topic, for example, landscape uniqueness, awe to nature, mutual understanding between people with different background etc. I believe landscape identity is in a constant motion that motivated by natural elements and cultural product, and continuously reflect on this deduction based researches in art history and sociology. 

This stage of work engages in the transition of depictions of the Cornish landscape. I found an anchor point in Peter Lanyon’s statement that the shift of the economic structure caused Cornish people to be exiled from their traditional way of living. I was significantly influenced by Mark Jenkin’s movie Bait (2019) and therefore encouraged to explore the true essence of Cornish landscape behind the idealised image that formed by centuries of cultural product. 

My work demonstrates a genuineness attitude, attempted to achieve a mutual understanding via a common appreciation to a particular landscape. It encourages visitors to abandon pre-occupied impressions and try to understand locals through their perspectives. 

Exhibition Proposal

Work

Please take a look of the Map of Development at http://www.ruischen.com

Wave Form, sculpture, salt and watercolour paper

Sail Form Series, sculpture, salt, strings and watercolour paper

The primary target I found very interesting was from my previous travels to Cornwall and Mark Jenkin’s film Bait. At the very beginning, I had an imagination that a relatively narrowed economic source might cause a further devolution of the region’s industrial structure. It means the wildly growing tourism and real estate investment could massively compress the under-developed manufacturing industry and traditional businesses. The economic structure of the county may considerably rely on outside visitors. In order to maintain a stable financial capability, Cornwall, as it has been stated in many reports and articles, would need to demonstrate a very idealised landscape image that shaped by screen products, post-colonialism and preoccupied impressions of a leisurely destination. The history of the county, especially how its lifestyle was celebrated in the field of art was because of up-country artists’ travels that began in the 19th Century. Turner, Farington and Daniel’s journey pictured a remote land with traditional productive activities. The unstoppable wheel of industrialisation on the other end of England not only generated a mature art market which supplies buyers and demands but also considered these forgotten medieval life-earning methods idyllic and romantic. Then countless artists flooded in the Peninsula and transformed west Cornwall as one of the most successful art colony in European history. 

Passive Decoration, sculpture, pinecone and salt

I interpreted pinecone as a potent religious symbol, and with it depicted my concern over losing identity and culture in the imperceptible process of post-colonisation. The pinecone would stretch open when air humidity drops to a certain point, but crystallised salt prevented this characteristic while creating a shiny decoration surface. Its fixation on the fruit created a paused physical status of a vegetal specimen. I was greatly inspired by shipwreck, moorings, floating woods and all sort of objects that to do with the maritime culture of Cornwall. I was thinking of building up a monument of shipwrecks, aims for reflecting the harsh environmental conditions that Cornish people managed to survive.

Feast on, sculpture, glass and salt.

Feast on, interrogates an interesting phrase I used many times for landscape paintings of Cornish natural heritage. A tall glass completely covered in crystallised Cornish salt, and filled with large fragments of the mineral was used to challenge “a celebration of Cornish landscape”. I tried to explore the true essence of the landscape that had been briefly celebrated so many times, pointing out a lost maritime history that constantly being covered by touristic attractions in the vacation season. I really would like to put a little umbrella on the pile of salt, but I realised this cup is actually for red wine. 

Catch of the Day, sculpture, wreckings and salt

Catch of the Day should be considered as a constant reminder of the image beneath the pictorial depiction of Cornish landscapes. Sea has been a significant resource to feed the Cornish people. I created this work to inform that there is a very squeezed fishing industry that still existed in this “one of the poorest region of west Europe”. It was also inspired by the word “wrecking” as well as the dark side of this desperate way of survive. I read about that scavengers would shake lanterns on cliffs as if they were beacons marking deep and calm water. Ships would be lured to these little light spots then smashed themselves or stranded on shores, spill out cargos to feed coastal villages. 

Cliff Form, sculpture, salt and watercolour paper

Catch of the Day should be considered as a constant reminder of the image beneath the pictorial depiction of Cornish landscapes. Sea has been a significant resource to feed the Cornish people. I created this work to inform that there is a very squeezed fishing industry that still existed in this “one of the poorest region of west Europe”. It was also inspired by the word “wrecking” as well as the dark side of this desperate way of survive. I read about that scavengers would shake lanterns on cliffs as if they were beacons marking deep and calm water. Ships would be lured to these little light spots then smashed themselves or stranded on shores, spill out cargos to feed coastal villages. 

Wind from St Ives, installation

A curtain of salted watercolour paper was produced with hand-extracted minerals of St Ives’s Bay. In natural light and sea wind, their shiny surface would remind my audience of the glistening light of waves that reflect the sun shines through a break of the cloudy sky. With the representative colour of the maritime charm of a Cornish summer day, it forms a mimic of natural landscape with the invisible essence of brinish elements, echoes the artist’s reminder of the context of Cornish maritime culture which is often experienced by outsiders in an idealised image. These components were sank and washed in the water to complete the dismounting process. How stiff crystals dissovle and return to their basic form (saltwater) displayes the artist’s interpretation of landscape and its identity.

In the Warmth of the Sun, painting, watercolour on paper

I have been concentrating on how cultural signature and Cornish identity were transformed due to preoccupied perceptions established by art colonies in my MA course at Camberwell College of Art. But I seldom looked back to my experience in Cornwall. The webpage of RCM writes about the Cornish word Hireth that it is “an intangible feeling, a longing for the familiarity and comfort of a place”, and “images that ‘mean’ Cornwall to people”. To me, Cornwall is a place where I separate my consciousness to run away from real life. Its landscape, and especially the seascape, in a windy, moist, grey afternoon is particularly touching when meditating. But ordinarily, Cornish shores are my longing for distance, a pursuit of inner peace; it is the motivation that kept me advancing, a desire of meeting its charms once again. I have been working on Cornish landscape enthusiastically and trying to depict the “true essence of Cornish Landscape” as an outsider with a distinctive cultural background.

In the Warmth of the Sun, a great tradition of en Plein Air, by which the most of famous pieces of Cornish scenes were produced; also the name of the book talks about Cornish artists in 70s. When its landscape jumped out of the frame of that settled by paintings who sought the romance of a medieval lifestyle on a remote land, a common love to nature formed a connection between all of those whom seemed irrelevant.

Marazion’s Mirror, painting, watercolour on paper

The painting depicts a representative scene when visiting the town of Marazion. It paints the sandy beach softly, and pictured the vivid relfection of the sky. The artists visualised his appreciation to the Cornish landscape, demonstrating a brinish charm in an outsider’s perspective.

Sinker, sculpture, strings and salt

“It’s night fishing,

It’s a meteor shoot across the sea

It comes as a firework upon Thames River

and to St Ive it glides.”

Whistler was also considered as a St Ives artist when he travelled and produced maritime image there. Despite his significant contribution to the late 19th century and early 20th-century art, his practices in St Ives were more general. Perhaps the reason for his journey shares the agreement of Barbizon school’s search of the idealised idyllic scene in the rural area of Europe. The artwork depicts the symbiotic existence of two sides of the image of the historical landscape of Cornwall.

The Memory of Blue Water, installation, watercolour & gouache

Conceptualised Seascape, painting, watercolour on paper

What is left if descriptions were eliminated and there is the only concept? Can a composition of pure elements that defined as “sea animals”, “waves”, “colour”, “ocean” be translated to a concept with boarder background but without adding details? What are the key elements among cultural and natural attractions? Is there a limit value that a maritime landscape is recognised with a specific landscape identity? Conceptualised Seascape chooses abstract brushwork that seldom seen among the artist’s work; it simplified the landscape alongside Longrock beach to Marazion. The artist regards ‘perceived uniquenesses’ an integration of subjective preference, personal experience and objectivity, and reflected the former two factors in this piece of work. Patterns of waves were created with Cornish sea salt, merged a sort of materiality to the painting. 

Bits of Land, bits of Sea, installation, paint on cardboard

In the Power of Rocks, when writing about Bodmin Moor, Christoper Tilley stated “The stone circles and stone rows variously acted so as to mark out or link sacred areas, or their margins”, he expressed a particular interested in how the scattering of cairns forms a structure to experience the landscape when “walking from one terminal to another”. The artwork reflects the time when these prehistory architectures degraded to landscapes that connect to nature closer than human activities. Spreading composition of the evidence of previous inhabitants occupies different spots of the region and defined them with their materiality. If we see the coastline as a perpetually moving object which demonstrated the Cornish landscape identity in a relatively short period, these assemblies of ritual sites, on the other hand, integrated as a landscape that almost holds stationary in the history. Each element expands from perhaps a standing stone, and reach the margin of another, assigned names as visitors firstly discovered them And with a number of them a piece of land is connected physically as well as culturally. The power of rocks solidated not only preoccupied impressions of historicalness and mysteriousness to the land but also reached “a triumph of culture” as it was referred at the end of the article. Bits of land, bits of sea; based on experiences of inhabitants and visitors, landscapes have been interpreting and reformed to a desirable form. The artwork also displays the graficality in the visualisation of essential elements that form the landscape identity of a particular choice in a visitor’s perspective.

Quoits, painting, watercolour on paper

The artist expressed his interest in the static status of the land, extracting the idea of “holy site” and repositioning them graphically. The series shows two compositions of quoits, prehistory cairns that assembled with megaliths. He has developed a particular interest in how the materiality of artificial structures define landscape identity even after their functionality has lost due to extinction of interactors. Inhabitants can no longer reappear the original state of the ritual sites even by spending time within the stone circle (experiencing the landscape). However, knowledge over archaeology reached a certain point of reproducing their departed purposes. Writers, academics and artists formed a stiff connection between these places – places at the boundary of economic and natural landscape – and the culture they have created, created a state in which essence of human activities got rid off the restriction of materiality that sealed them and sublimed into the uniqueness of a specific land.

Reflective Journal