‘Low-level Landscapes’

The series ‘Low-Level Landscapes’ is part of the Foreign Eyes on Fryslan commission and essentially comprises of a focussed body of work which deals with the low lying terrains of North Fryslan. My objective was to find an appropriate way to represent the topographics of the area in question. The landscapes themselves are ‘claimed’ from the sea and are implausibly flat. Looking at the horizons themselves caused a bit of a disconcerted feeling in truth. It seemed difficult to find a sense of scale or distance. There was a sense of repetition to the way that each area of land was separated which led itself to a certain approach which I decided to adopt.Control and organization is the key here. The actual landscapes themselves are controlled. One of the underlying themes of the projects I did was that command over nature that is an important part of the physical reality of rural Fryslan, and indeed part of the Fryslan rhetoric. One thing that was made clear to me was that every inch of land is used, well organized, well controlled, well managed and each has a distinct purpose. Further to this every natural resource is utilized to some degree. Easy to see that we here in Ireland could learn a lot from these methods of land use and resource management. I have carried this control element through the approach that I have taken – a rigorous geometry which I feel represents the landscapes of the north of Fryslan best. The work adopts a more ‘German’ approach to documentary. But it also keeps within Dutch landscape traditions – subverting them in a way. The representations of landscapes in Dutch pictorialist traditions keep a low horizon approach to draw attention to the epic and sublime cloud features. My approach is to draw attention to these consistently flat and compact areas of land. This approach means a more neutral, debased skyline and an emphasis on the topographic differences. The approach follow interconnecting photographic (and artistic) traditions which have informed much of my work to date. Firstly, they are photographed in a tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit, or ‘new objectivity’ – a more detached and objective approach to documentary which dates back to the 1920’s Germany. This approach uses, for instance, grids and ‘typologies’ to display their images in a formal order (for instance, subjects and objects photographed in a similar manner and grouped into ‘types’ which allow comparative study between each). This approach displays a minimalist quality which was prescient to later photographic work that appealed to the Conceptualism of the early 1970s (my work has adapted elements of Conceptual Art). Such approaches can also be found in the work of the generation of American photographers, such as the ‘New Topographics’, who have since come to be understood as marking an important shift in Landscape practice; offering a ‘re-thinking’ of landscape traditions in the 1970s. Interesting that this movement can, to a degree, be seen as a reaction to the pictorialist, utopian photography of, for instance, Ansel Adams who adamantly depicted the American landscape as an entity of unscathed and organic beauty. In effect, the photographers of the New Topographics movement strove to show the rapidly increasing imprint that man was imparting on the landscape. They turned their cameras towards newly built tract houses, industrial parks, expansive highways and commercial strip malls as proof of man's impetuous development. These approaches have informed my Midlands work and, to a degree, the recent continuation of this project - ‘Suspended State’ and I found that this approach is a fitting way to represent the landscapes of the north of Fryslan.